Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba in the middle. Press photo: Ukrainian Foreign Ministry.

Russia has previously said that they are only ready to discuss bilateral relations and not the issue of Donbas. The Ukrainian Foreign Minister, however, says that Donbas will be discussed at the meeting. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky may meet his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in a few months to discuss bilateral relations and deescalate recent tensions. The number of ceasefire violations in Donbas has increased recently, making some people fear that Russia would want to invade Ukraine. The meeting would be a way to secure peace.

“I think it’s very simple here. First. You need to meet. Because we understand that we need to negotiate with Putin. He makes the decision. Other. There are certain traditions in international practice. In such cases, the parties meet either in neutral territory or in the immediate area of ​​conflict. This is the optimal baseline scenario for a meeting opportunity,” said the Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba in an extensive interview with Radio Free Europe.

Kuleba said that Ukraine is negotiating with Russia about a meeting and that they will discuss peace in Donbas and the Russian annexation of Crimea if the meeting takes place. Russia previously said that it would only discuss bilateral relations with Ukraine, which it said does not include the issue of Donbas.  

“Russia’s aggression against Ukraine is, by definition, bilateral relations. That is why here is the art of diplomatic interpretation, which we can resort to indefinitely. But we understand that the main purpose of President Zelensky’s conversation with President Putin is to end the war in Ukraine and to deoccupy our territories. And, I assure you, the President of Ukraine, when talking about the de-occupation of territories, means both Donbas and Crimea,” said Kuleba. 

Will move towards NATO membership

Zelensky has made it clear several times that Ukraine wants to become a NATO member and that it will happen sooner or later. Experts have pointed to a link between such statements and the recent high tensions with Russia, but Kuleba says that it a wrong logic to link NATO talks with Russian aggression.

– We need to break out of this logic. There really is, and there is such an approach. I have heard it in NATO, I have heard it in the EU, and I have heard it talking to certain countries. This is a completely wrong logic that plays into the interests of the Russian Federation… Because if we are guided by the logic of “let’s not irritate Russia,” then we just need to sit down, fold our arms, lower our heads and put our necks under the Russian ax. This is a completely wrong approach,” says Kuleba. 

Despite this, Kuleba is sure that both NATO and EU membership will happen at some point and that discussions are moving in the right direction. 

“We openly say that, of course, NATO membership is not a matter of today or tomorrow or, let’s be honest, the day after tomorrow. This is a certain process. But we all need to have a clear understanding of the timing of this process. And here around it, there is a discussion,” said Kuleba. 

“Currently, there are countries in the EU that are skeptical about the prospect of Ukraine’s membership because they believe that we are too big, too competitive as EU members. And because they still see the picture of Eastern Europe through the prism of the influence of the Russian Federation. But a few years ago, there were more of these countries, and now there are fewer of them. And we will work with them, we will talk to them,” said Kuleba, “I can safely say that the issue of our membership in the EU and NATO is a matter of time.”