Zelenskyy on negotiations with Russia: Azovstal evacuation the only positive outcome

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Iryna Balachuk – Wednesday, 25 May 2022, 10:41

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine has said that the evacuation of civilians and military personnel from Azovstal and the evacuation of civilians from Mariupol are the only positive outcomes of Ukraine’s negotiations with Russia.

Source: President Zelenskyy in a video address during a Ukrainian breakfast in Davos

Quote from Zelenskyy: "The only positive outcome – if we can even call it positive – is that the sides started discussing the lifting of the siege of Azovstal and evacuating civilians from Mariupol. First the civilians were evacuated, and then soldiers were evacuated from Azovstal – those with severe wounds.

So I believe that there was at least something positive, that these negotiations opened up an opportunity to evacuate people."

Details: Zelenskyy noted that both the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross were part of this negotiation process: "they all helped as much as they could, which is why certain results could be achieved."

As for the fate of any future negotiations with Russia, President Zelenskyy said that there is no evidence that the aggressor country is interested in continuing them or in introducing any concrete proposals.

Quote from Zelenskyy: "First it seemed that we could start talking [with Russia], that it will have some sort of an outcome. But so far I have not seen Russia take any steps – not even productive steps, any kind of steps – and I haven’t seen any outcomes. I think they are holding the process back.

But we are against any kind of artificial agreements – without real confirmation from an adequate number of partner countries which are prepared to be the guarantors of Ukraine’s security. There’s nothing to discuss without powerful partners."

Background:

The city of Mariupol has been under Russian siege since 1 March. Ukrainian troops defending Mariupol, including the Azov Regiment of the National Guard, marines, border guards, and police officers, retreated to the Azovstal steel works, where they were besieged as of late April. The marines asked for an extraction procedure to be carried out to evacuate Azovstal defenders, while the Azov Regiment called for the evacuation of at least the most severely wounded soldiers.

Mariupol civilians were evacuated in early May, but Russia has opposed all attempts to evacuate the Ukrainian soldiers defending Azovstal, even though Turkey has offered to evacuate them via the Black Sea and to guarantee their non-participation in combat in Ukraine.

On 16 May, Russian troops resumed their attempts to enter Azovstal or block the exits from its bunkers. Later on, they claimed that they had reached an agreement with the Ukrainian troops defending Azovstal concerning the evacuation of the wounded Ukrainian soldiers to Russian-held territories of Ukraine.

The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said that the soldiers of the Mariupol garrison have completed their combat mission, and unit commanders had been ordered to save the lives of military personnel.

On 20 May, the Russian Ministry of Defence said that all Ukrainian soldiers had left Azovstal; it claimed that a total of 2,439 soldiers had left Azovstal bunkers since 16 May and that these soldiers are now considered Russian prisoners of war.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that Mariupol defenders must be freed in accordance with prisoner exchange procedures and returned to Ukraine. Russia has not ruled out a prisoner exchange, though some of the Russian occupiers are calling for Ukrainian soldiers to be tried at a tribunal.