Istanbul: The first face-to-face talks in two weeks between Russia and Ukraine began in Turkey on Tuesday, raising flickering hopes there could be progress toward ending the war.
An adviser to the Ukrainian president said the meeting in Istanbul was focused on securing a cease-fire and guarantees for Ukraine’s security — issues that have been the focus of previous unsuccessful negotiations.
Ahead of the talks, the Ukrainian president said his country was prepared to declare its neutrality, as Moscow has demanded, and was open to compromise over the contested eastern region of Donbas — comments that might lend momentum to negotiations.
But he warned the “ruthless war” continued, and even the negotiators assembled, Russian forces hit an oil depot in western Ukraine and a government building in the south.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told the two sides that they had a “historic responsibility” to stop the fighting.
“We believe that there will be no losers in a just peace. Prolonging the conflict is not in anyone’s interest,” Erdogan said, as he greeted the two delegations seated on opposite sides of a long table.
Also in the room at the Istanbul talks was Roman Abramovich, who has been sanctioned by Britain and the EU. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the Chelsea Football Club owner has been serving as an unofficial mediator approved by both countries, according to media report.