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President's Office denies Ukraine has softened its position on peace talks

by Dinara Khalilova and The Kyiv Independent news desk August 7, 2023 9:28 PM 3 min read
Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine Andrii Yermak speaks during his joint press conference with the former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and former president of Colombia Juan Manuel Santos on August 16, 2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine. (Alexey Furman/Getty Images)
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Ukraine's Presidential Office denied reports that Kyiv had softened its position regarding the withdrawal of Russian troops as the condition to start peace talks.

The Wall Street Journal reported, citing unnamed European officials, that Ukraine didn't press the full withdrawal demand, the key point of its peace formula, at an Aug. 5 meeting in Saudi Arabia that gathered diplomats and national security advisors from dozens of countries.

During a meeting in Kyiv with journalists on Aug. 7, members of Ukraine's delegation denied reports, saying that Ukraine hasn't changed its stance.

"We said in the very beginning of the meeting that Russian forces need to fully withdraw from Ukraine," said Ihor Zhovkva, deputy head of the Presidential Office. "No participants have contented that."

Andriy Yermak, head of the Presidential Office, blamed Russian propaganda for spreading rumors about the meeting, saying these statements were an attempt to undermine the talks.

"Sometimes these 'anonymous' sources have a very obvious origin," he told the Kyiv Independent during the meeting with journalists on Aug. 7. "This meeting is a huge blow to Russia. We aren't surprised that fake information comes up, even in reputable publications."

As 40 countries discuss peace for Ukraine, Medvedev says Kyiv ‘must beg for mercy’
As diplomats and national security advisors from over 40 countries discussed ways of ending Russia’s war against Ukraine in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Russia’s Security Council Deputy Chairman Dmitry Medvedev, known for spreading xenophobic remarks, said on Aug. 6 that Kyiv “must beg Moscow for mercy.”

The WSJ wrote that the event participants "appeared keener to seek out a consensus" than at the previous meeting in Copenhagen, where Ukraine reportedly pushed for some developing countries to accept the peace formula but they refused to do so.

Russia wasn't invited to the peace formula talks that numbered representatives from 42 countries.

"It irritates the aggressor country a lot that this conversation is taking place without them," Yermak said.

On the same day, the Presidential Office head emphasized on national television that the meeting had focused only on the Ukrainian peace plan. According to the WSJ, China presented its 12-point peace proposal, first announced in January, which was criticized by Ukraine's partners for a failure to clearly state call out Russia as the aggressor.

"All talks about a ceasefire without the mandatory withdrawal of Russian troops from the territory of Ukraine are delusional," Yermak told TV reporters. "It would only prolong the process and prepare for new attacks on our territories. Everyone spoke about this very clearly (at the Saudi Arabia meeting)."

The summit comes as Russia and the West battle over the support of developing countries, which have mostly stayed neutral throughout Russia's 16-month-old full-scale war against Ukraine.

Ukraine's 10-point peace formula, supported by many Western allies, includes the restoration of Ukraine's territorial integrity, a complete withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine, and the punishing of those responsible for war crimes.

When asked whether Russian President Vladimir Putin could escalate the war in response to the peace formula talks, Yermak said: “Can a mad man in the Kremlin do something even crazier? I don’t know, I’m not a doctor.”

Why Ukraine chooses to negotiate on the battlefield, not at peace talks
When Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky proposed his 10-point peace plan to G20 leaders in Bali on Nov. 15, he had only recently returned from a historic visit to Kherson, the liberation of which marks another great step towards the return of all Russian-occupied territory. Touching on factors…
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