Ukraine’s top diplomat said Monday his country wants to kick off peace talks at the United Nations by the end of February — but will only let Russia take part on the condition that its leaders face prosecution for war crimes before an international criminal court.
“Every war ends in a diplomatic way,” Dmytro Kuleba told the Associated Press. “Every war ends as a result of the actions taken on the battlefield and at the negotiating table.”
“The United Nations could be the best venue for holding this summit, because this is not about making a favor to a certain country,” he added. “This is really about bringing everyone on board.”
Kuleba, 41, added that he wanted UN Secretary General António Guterres to mediate the prospective talks, which would coincide with the anniversary of Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine.
“He has proven himself to be an efficient mediator and an efficient negotiator, and most importantly, as a man of principle and integrity,” Kuleba said of Guterres. “So we would welcome his active participation.”
Kuleba spoke out one day after Russian President Vladimir Putin said the Kremlin was “ready to negotiate with everyone involved about acceptable solutions” to end the 10-month-old war.
“We are not the ones refusing to negotiate, they are,” Putin told Russian television.
“I believe that we are acting in the right direction, we are defending our national interests, the interests of our citizens, our people. And we have no other choice but to protect our citizens,” the 70-year-old added.
Kuleba downplayed Putin’s comments.
“They regularly say that they are ready for negotiations, which is not true, because everything they do on the battlefield proves the opposite,” he said.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky presented a 10-point peace formula at last month’s G20 summit in Indonesia — which included the restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, removal of all Russian troops from that territory, release of all prisoners and punishment for war crimes, as well as security guarantees.
On Monday, Kuleba insisted that Russia be made to face responsibility for atrocities committed by its military, saying Moscow “can only be invited to this step in this way.”
In an address to US lawmakers last week, Zelensky said he had discussed his peace plan and summit proposal with President Biden at an Oval Office meeting and affirmed that Biden had given it his full support.
Kuleba said he was “absolutely satisfied” with Zelensky’s visit to Washington, during which the Biden administration announced it would be providing Ukraine with a Patriot missile defense battery.
This shows how both the United States are important for Ukraine, but also how Ukraine is important for the United States,” said Kuleba, who added that Washington had developed a program to complete training on the missile battery faster than usual “without any damage to the quality of the use of this weapon on the battlefield.”
While Kuleba didn’t mention a specific time frame, he said only that it will be “very much less than six months” and done “outside” Ukraine.