About six weeks have passed since President Putin's army has entered Ukraine on the plea of what they term as saving the people who are the victims of repression and genocide in some parts of the country as well as to free Ukraine from demilitarization and ‘Nazism’. We know that this was Putin's fabricated plea. He had other concerns, particularly security concerns, surrounding the possibility of Ukraine’s joining the NATO alliance. This time he has lost his patience to wait further. Consequently, Ukraine became a victim of Russian aggression. Ukraine was invaded by Putin’s military and the war that began in the last week of February is still raging across Ukraine. Even, the killing of innocent civilians by the Russian troops in the Ukrainian city of Bucha 4/5 days back has aggravated the crisis adding some new dimensions.
According to the information received, the number of military casualties on both sides has exceeded several thousand. Thousands of Ukrainian civilians, hundreds of children and some journalists were killed. In addition, millions of Ukrainians have fled the country and are living in refugee camps in neighbouring countries, mostly in Poland. There have even been reports of thousands of civilians being forcibly evacuated from the port city of Mariupol to Russia.
At the recently concluded Doha Forum, the Ukrainian President, urged the world's energy producing countries to increase their production. He made this video call to alert those countries so that Russia cannot ‘blackmail’ other countries through its oil and gas supplies. However, there is considerable doubt as to how effective this call will be. We do not know how many of the oil or gas producing countries will respond to Ukraine's call. Only time and situation of the crisis will
President Putin had a dream that Ukraine would be invaded by Russian troops in a couple of weeks. As such, Kyiv has not yet been captured. Apparently, Putin's aggression aims and tactics are seemingly going to be changed a lot, perhaps, understanding the reality of the situation. Now they are focusing on securing the Ukrainian territories bordering Russia for Russia’s safety, especially the implementation of Putin's declaration as so-called republics like Donetsk and Luhansk, separating the eastern part from Ukraine in the name of separatists. The United Nations has, meanwhile, alleged that Mariupol has been evacuated; the civilians were forcibly relocated to Russia. In view of the prevailing situation, it is thought that Russia will go for ceasefire or compromise with Ukraine only after destroying its military establishments or some of the identified important infrastructure and installations (maybe already did something), taking control of the eastern Danbas area and procuring guarantee from Ukraine not to join NATO.
We know that even in the midst of the ongoing war, the efforts and initiatives for peace talks have not stopped. Russia and Ukraine met three times in February (in Belarus) and twice in March (in Turkey). The last two meetings were held in Turkey (Anatalya and Istanbul) at the initiatives of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The meetings held in Belarus and in Anatalya, Turkey failed to produce any positive result. However, the second round of talks, held between the two countries on 29 March in Istanbul brought some aspirations. Just two days before that meeting, President Erdogan said that the two sides have agreed to accept four of the six conditions of the agreement. The four conditions were: Ukraine must stay out of NATO, Russian language must be used in Ukraine, disarmament and security of Ukraine must be guaranteed.
Though the talks in Istanbul were much positive and encouraging than earlier meetings, but have not yet brought any significant outcome. The two sides appeared closer to ending the war, but we do not see any sign of improving the situation. Rather, the Russian troops, on 2-3 April, committed atrocities in Ukrainian town of Bucha killing hundreds of innocent civilians and their bodies were lying in the streets of the city, some with hands tied behind their backs. In the wake of that alleged atrocities, European countries like Italy, Germany, France, Denmark, Latvia, Lithuania, etc. have expelled dozens of Russian diplomats from their countries. President Biden, on 4 April, said, “This guy is brutal ... What is happening in Bucha is outrageous.” In an interview with the Ukrainian journalists, two days back, President Zelensky has said that there is ‘no other choice’ than to negotiate an end to the war with Russia, even if it is difficult to do amid signs that Russian forces may have committed atrocities against civilians. On 5 April, while he was addressing an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council, he called for a Nuremberg-style tribunal to investigate and prosecute war crimes in Ukraine. Ukrainian President also called for Russia’s expulsion from the UNSC, but we know that is not possible. However, Russia has denied the allegations.
Many people think that the purpose for which President Putin invaded Ukraine is almost complete. If there is anything left, it will be filled through the ongoing negotiations. Some analysts say that whatever are the negotiations between the two countries, the final decision must come from Putin; he is the only decision-maker in Russia. I also agree with this comment that no pressure from the western countries or UN could force Putin to end the war, unless he feels. And that can only be done through diplomatic means. The outcome of the video talks among the negotiators of the two countries, held on 5 April, could not be known yet. Anyway, considering the ongoing scenario of the crisis, we can only expect something positive, at least to continue their negotiations. We like to see ending of the war, an amicable solution of the crisis. Leaders of the two countries will be more humanitarian and will sit together with good intention to resolve the problem. We hope that the two presidents will finally meet, might be as a continuation of President Erdogan’s diplomatic initiatives, to reach an agreement for peace and interests of their peoples.
The writer is a former Ambassador and Secretary