Talks between Russia and Ukraine’s foreign ministers in Turkey on Thursday appear to have ended in failure in the first high-level meeting between the two countries since the Moscow-ordered invasion two weeks ago.
The discussions, between Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, and his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba, lasted just 1½ hours.
Talks got underway near Antalya amid an outpouring of international outrage over Russia’s attack on a children’s hospital in the besieged city of Mariupol.
The bombing of the 600-bed children’s and maternity hospital that injured pregnant women was evidence of “genocide” Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said. The White House called the attack barbaric.
As western leaders condemned the bombing, Ukraine’s foreign minister and officials were pictured sitting opposite the Russian delegation as the brief talks that Kuleba described as both “easy and difficult” got underway.
In comments after the talks broke up, Lavrov said the hospital had been under the control of “Ukrainian radicals” and denied that any patients were present. He said the west had caused the conflict by forcing Ukraine to choose between Russia and the west.
Kuleba called for Russia to allow the evacuation of civilians from Mariupol. He said Ukraine was ready for diplomacy but also able to defend itself as it appeared that Russia would fight on and was seeking a surrender from Kyiv.
Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlüt Çavu?o?lu, who brokered the meeting, said before it began that the aim was to pave the way for talks between Russian president Vladimir Putin and Zelenskiy, facilitated by Turkey’s leader, Recep Tayip Erdo?an. Turkey, which is a Nato member and which has not imposed sanctions on Russia but has condemned the attack and allowed Turkish-built drones to be bought by Ukraine, is trying to position itself as a neutral broker in the conflict.
The Kremlin has said it would stop the war if Ukraine ceased military action, enshrined in its constitution that it had no plans to join Nato, gave up annexed Crimea and recognised the separatist regions of Donetsk and Luhansk as independent states.