President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky has instructed the Ukrainian delegation to take a firm stand in the talks with the Russian side, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Dmytro Kuleba said.

“The President of Ukraine gave very clear instructions to our delegation. We do not trade in people, land, and sovereignty. Our position is solid. It is backed up by international law, the Armed Forces of Ukraine, international sanctions that have been imposed on Russia, weapons that have been transferred to Ukraine for defence against the aggressor,” the minister said.

According to Kuleba, the immediate goal in the negotiations in Turkey is to solve humanitarian problems. The ultimate goal is ceasefire, reaching stable agreements on this issue.

“We are looking forward to the conversation of the two delegations to see if the Russians will come to these talks ready to really agree on something, or just will repeat their demands, which were heard from the beginning. If we see that the mood has changed and they are ready for a serious, substantive conversation and balanced arrangements, then things will move forward. If they will repeat their propaganda stamps behind closed doors, the delegations will leave the same way as they arrived,” he said.

The minister stated that so far no agreements had been reached as such. Instead, there is an exchange of thoughts, suggestions, and ideas. Contacts between Ukraine’s partners and the Russian side continue at various levels and in various formats aimed at encouraging Russia to take a more constructive position. Kuleba expressed gratitude to Turkey for its leadership in mediation efforts and stimulation of the negotiation process.

The minister noted that the public position of Russia gradually changed during this month from plans to capture key cities of Ukraine to explanations that hostilities were limited to the capture of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

Kuleba stated that the talks in Turkey on 29 March would not touch upon holding a referendum in Ukraine because it was an internal matter of Ukraine: “We will decide on our own which referendum we will hold or not; it is not a talking point.”

“The President of Ukraine always focuses on the position of the people, the position of Ukrainians. We have come a long way on national unity over the month. I rule out a situation when the government will do something against the will of the people,” Kuleba said.

Natalia Tolub

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