Ukraine’s president, however, sent mixed signals on what they would speak about exactly
Volodymyr Zelensky signaled his readiness to talk directly with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Thursday, suggesting the two should sit down together as “neighbors” and talk about the ongoing conflict.
At the same time, the Ukrainian president was quite ambiguous about the topic of such talks – should they ever happen – and mocked the infamous extra-long table first used by Putin while meeting his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron.
“What do you want from us? Leave our land. You don’t want to leave now – sit with me at the negotiating table, I’m available,” Zelensky told reporters. “Sit with me, but not 30 meters, as with Macron, Scholz and so on. I’m a neighbor, I don’t need to be kept 30 meters away,” he went on.
Asked about the security guarantees Russia has long sought, Zelensky brushed the topic off, implying Moscow’s demands were unfounded and Ukraine had nothing to say about them.
Guarantees of what? We’re not attacking Russia and not seeking to attack it. Are we in NATO? – No. Do we have nuclear weaponry? – No. What should I say?
The remarks contradicted multiple statements made in the past by top Ukrainian officials, including Zelensky himself.
Kiev has been speaking about “Russian aggression” for years already, routinely referring to the militias of the breakaway republics of Donetsk and Lugansk in the country’s east as “Russian occupation forces.” Joining NATO has been among the talking points of Ukrainian politicians for a long time too, with Zelensky repeatedly reiterating such aspirations.
Shortly before the ongoing conflict broke out, Zelensky himself brought up the nuclear weapons issue as well, suggesting the country could seek to obtain such munitions to enhance its security.
Moscow launched its large-scale offensive against Ukraine last week, explaining it was the only option left to protect Lugansk and Donetsk from an allegedly imminent attack by Kiev, a charge the top leadership of the country has denied, branding the attack unprovoked. Days before the operation kicked off, Moscow recognized the independence of the republics that split from Kiev back in 2014, following the Maidan turmoil and downfall of the government.