“Why Ukraine and Russia Stopped Talking”, John Zachau (UI, Sweden)

On 28 May, Chancellor of Germany Olaf Scholz and President of France Emmanuel Macron urged Russia’s President Vladimir Putin to engage in “serious direct negotiations” with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and insisted on an immediate ceasefire and a withdrawal of Russian troops. This was not the first call for a “diplomatic solution” to the conflict. Bilateral talks between Ukraine and Russia had commenced exactly three months earlier, four days after Russia launched its large-scale invasion on 24 February. Right from the start, however, there were doubts about Russia’s intentions, among other things due to its maximalist demands and open questioning of Ukraine’s right to exist as a sovereign state and nation, as well as its brutal warfare and behaviour, arguably amounting to genocide. Following successful Ukrainian counteroffensives, and especially the discovery of Russian atrocities in Bucha and elsewhere in early April, the talks lost momentum and were eventually suspended (although the existence of some secret backchannel talks cannot be excluded). This overview discusses the proposals for a negotiated settlement of the conflict that were put forward publicly by Ukraine and Russia in the course of these talks, and analyses why no agreement has been reached.

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