KIEV/MOSCOW – With the onset of Russia's war on Ukraine, calls for negotiations abounded, offering Kiev to give up its NATO membership ambitions and return to neutrality.

At the time, Kiev was demanding that Moscow stop the war and return to the borders of February 24, 2022 as a semi-sole condition for negotiations. It seemed so tempting to Russia, that Turkey was able to bring together the delegations and foreign ministers of both sides.

But the meetings were not crowned with any success, as the final word was the conduct of battles on the ground, and the upper hand in them was undoubtedly Russia.

Zelenskiy during his participation last month in a summit with European leaders in Brussels (Reuters)

Hardening of the Ukrainian position

The Ukrainian position turned upside down in the middle of last year, with Kiev acquiring qualitative Western weapons for fighting that changed the course of the battles in its favor relatively, and then hardened in September after Russia's decision to annex 4 Ukrainian provinces to its territory.

"The first weeks of the war proved that Russia practices double standards, it does not want to negotiate or achieve any goals it declared as pretexts to start the war, but to acquire all or the bulk of Ukraine," says Oleksiy Kuschel, head of the Ukrainian Options Foundation for Strategic Studies.

Thus, Kushel continues in an interview with Al Jazeera Net, "It has become illogical to pay attention to sitting at the negotiating table, because it is an explicit surrender, or acceptance of the fait accompli imposed by Russia, which it calls for publicly until today."

10-item plan

On the basis of the financial and military support it is receiving, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced a few months ago his country's peace plan, which is based on international law and the principles of the United Nations, he said, and consists of 10 clauses (or conditions):

  • Nuclear safety, with the Russian military machine moving away from the Zaporizhia power plant, the largest in Europe.
  • Food security, by protecting and guaranteeing Ukrainian grain exports.
  • Energy security, by imposing restrictions on Russian energy resources, and restoring energy infrastructure damaged by the bombing.
  • Release detainees and children "kidnapped" from the occupied territories without exception.
  • Return of all Ukrainian territory, including Crimea and the entire territory of Donbass (this item is not under discussion).
  • Cessation of hostilities with the withdrawal of Russia and the restoration of control of the entire Ukrainian border with it.
  • Prosecute war criminals and establish a special tribunal to try Russian war crimes.
  • Protect the environment, focusing on mine clearance, and restore water facilities.
  • To prevent the escalation of the conflict, to prevent the renewal of war, through a Euro-Atlantic security structure, which provides guarantees to Ukraine.
  • Confirmation of the end of the war, by signing a document on the matter by the parties concerned.
  • The Chinese president visited Russia a few days ago for the first time since the start of the war in Ukraine (French)

    Turkish and Chinese endeavors

    The Ukrainian plan has gained wide global acceptance, especially from the United Nations and Kiev's supporters. But it has been met with a categorical Russian rejection that sees it as a disregard for "today's realities."

    Thus, all that remains in the arena of efforts are continuous Turkish attempts to bring the two sides together, which President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his foreign minister adhere to, despite their acknowledgment of the difficulty and complexity of the matter.

    Finally, China stood out by announcing its own peace plan, but in Ukraine it was met with skepticism, criticism, and "rejection," as Russian President Vladimir Putin put it, while raising American concerns.

    A clear comprehensive peace

    "Turkey has a great place for Ukraine, but it seeks a ceasefire first, and Ukraine never trusts Russia, no one knows how things will go after that, how long it will take, and how its final outcome will be," he said.

    Regarding the Chinese plan, this political expert believes that Beijing's position was and still is closer to Russia: "It did not explicitly refer in its plan to the withdrawal of the Russians from all our territories. So, I think, it's a face-saving plan for Putin, not for real peace."

    The expert pointed to another dimension, saying, "Most of the neighboring countries, and 50 countries around the world, strongly and generously support us so that we can resolve the war and victory, and to end the threat of Russia and its crimes, and the problems it causes at the regional and international levels."

    Putin on a surprise visit a few days ago to Mariupol, one of the areas captured by his forces in the war (Reuters)

    Russian position

    On the other hand, the Russian position does not seem to be in the process of retreating from the "fait accompli" and "new realities" that Moscow considers to be "proving" what it considers to be the restoration of its historical territories, starting with Crimea and passing (if there are no sudden developments) to Donetsk, Lugansk, Zabarorgia and Kherson.

    It is precisely from this point of view that the Russian approach to the conditions for peace negotiations with Kiev is taking shape. The Russian demands stipulate:

  • Kiev's acceptance of a geopolitical neutral status.
  • Amend the Constitution of Ukraine to include a clause refusing to deploy weapons on its territory.
  • Recognition of Crimea, Donetsk, Lugansk, Kherson and Zabarojia as Russian territories.
  • Disarmament of all types of weapons in Ukraine and the elimination of "Nazi, nationalist and chauvinist" tendencies in Ukraine.

  • Dilemmas for negotiation

    Here, the first "technical dilemma" may arise before the start of negotiations, as Moscow sets conditions for the start of negotiations, saying that it is ready for them, but without preconditions on the part of Kiev, based on the existing reality and taking into account the goals announced by Russia as the reason for the military operation in Ukraine.

    In this context, the director of the Center for Political Forecasting in Moscow, Denis Karkudinov, asserts that the circumstances in which the Ukrainian president puts forward his demands, indicate that he is completely isolated from the facts, including his demand for the withdrawal of Russian troops from the regions of Donbass, Crimea, Zaparajugia and Kherson. Therefore, the prospects for a diplomatic settlement, according to him, are not visible today.

    In addition, Karkodinov sees the problem with the dialogue with Kiev as "Zelensky's regime is absolutely dependent on the opinion of Washington, London and Brussels, with the Anglo-Saxons doing everything in their power to make the war in Ukraine as bloody as possible and to prevent any substantive negotiations on a peaceful settlement."

    Regarding China's peace plan for the conflict in Ukraine, the Russian expert says it is difficult to find evidence of coercion by Russia to make concessions to Kiev. At the same time, it cannot be considered biased, especially with the clause on the geographical unity of the territories of the two adversaries, which contradicts in form and content with the annexation of the four regions, as well as Crimea, to Russia.

    Consideration of interests

    According to the director of the Center for Political Forecasting in Moscow, over time the Chinese plan will find its way to life, taking into account all interests. China's foreign policy, unlike America's, is not based on threats and force. Just as in the process of economic expansion it usually proceeds on a bilateral basis, in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict it is guided by the same principle.