Zelenskiy’s talks with other leaders signal diplomatic flurry around Ukraine

Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via REUTERS
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy attends an International Human Rights forum, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine December 9, 2022.

KYIV (Reuters) – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy held talks with U.S. President Joe Biden and with the leaders of Turkey and France on Sunday, an increase in diplomatic activity around the war started by Russia that is dragging into a 10th month.

“We are constantly working with partners,” Zelenskiy said in his nightly video address, adding that he expects some “important results” next week from a series of international events that will tackle the situation in Ukraine.

While Zelenskiy has held numerous talks with Biden, French President Emmanuel Macron and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan since Russian forces invaded in late February, the accumulation of discussions in just one day is not a regular event.

Zelenskiy said he had thanked Biden for “unprecedented defense and financial” help the United States has provided for Ukraine and talked with the U.S. president about an effective anti-aircraft defense systems to protect the population.

Earlier, Zelenskiy said that he held “a very meaningful” conversation with Macron on “defense, energy, economy, diplomacy” that lasted more than an hour and “very specific” talks with Erdogan on assuring Ukraine’s grain exports.

Turkey, which acted as a mediator in peace talks in the early months of the war, also worked alongside the United Nations in a grain deal, which opened up Ukrainian ports for exports in July after a six-month de facto Russian blockade.

Erdogan’s office said the Turkish leader had a call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday, in which he had called for a quick end to the conflict.

Putin said last week that Moscow’s near-total loss of trust in the West would make an eventual settlement over Ukraine much harder to reach and warned of a protracted war.

Macron has championed diplomacy in the conflict but his mixed messages that it was up to Kyiv to decide when to negotiate with Moscow, but also that security guarantees were needed for Russia, have unnerved some Western allies, Kyiv and the Baltic countries.

There are no peace talks and no end in sight to the deadliest conflict in Europe since World War Two, which Moscow calls a “special military operation” and Ukraine and its allies an unprovoked act of aggression.

Moscow shows no signs of being ready to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and pre-war borders, saying the four regions it claims to have annexed from Ukraine in September are part of Russia “forever.” The government in Kyiv has ruled out conceding any land to Russia in return for peace.

On the ground in Ukraine, the entire eastern front line has been continuously shelled with heavy fighting taking place. Moscow is also targeting Ukraine’s energy infrastructure with waves of missile and drone strikes, at times cutting off electricity for millions of civilians in winter, when mean temperatures can be several degrees below zero Celsius.