Russian President Vladimir Putin called his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, on Thursday afternoon, using the conversation to lay out Moscow's demands and conditions for a peace deal with Ukraine.
BBC world affairs editor John Simpson subsequently spoke with Erdogan's top adviser and spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin. Kalin, who'd been part of a small group listening in on the phone call, spelled out what Putin's demands included.
He said the demands basically broke down into two categories, the first appearing simple at least on their face for Ukraine to meet.
- Acceptance by Ukraine that it ought to remain a neutral entity and not apply to NATO for membership. This one seems particularly uncomplicated, as Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy this week conceded that very point.
- Ukraine must go through a disarmament process, so as not to pose a threat to Russia.
- There must be protection for the Russian language in Ukraine.
- And this: There must be ''de-Nazification.''
The last point does come with some complications, the BBC said, noting that Zelenskyy, himself Jewish with kin who died in the Holocaust, has taken offense to any suggestions that his nation has Nazi inclinations.
But, the BBC report said, Turkish officials nonetheless see this as relatively simple to sort out, perhaps by having Ukraine issue a blanket statement deploring and discouraging all neo-Nazism.
Where Things Get Tough
As for the second category of demands made by Putin on his call with Erodgan, Putin reportedly said it was likely he'd have to talk face to face with Zelenskyy. The BBC said, though, that Zelenskyy has already indicated a willingness to do so.
But if getting the two leaders to the table seems workable, the issues they would confront are bound to be a lot more complex.
While less specific regarding these tougher demands, Kalin told the BBC they involved the status of Donbas, in eastern Ukraine, where factions had already broken away and sought alignment with Moscow. Likewise, Crimea's status is on the table, he suggested.
All that suggests the two men will be haggling over a particularly challenging condition: a Moscow demand that Ukraine cede some territory in its eastern reaches. Kalin also seemed to suggest that Zelenskyy would need to accept that Crimea, annexed by Russia in 2014 amid much controversy, now belongs to Russia without question.
The BBC report said the demands did not seem as harsh as some have feared, nor worth all the violence and bloodshed arising from the Ukraine invasion. On the flip side, though, the network said the issues are bound to fill Ukrainians with anxiety: Improperly executed, they could open the door to another invasion in the future.
Putin's Mental State
Kalin, in talking with the BBC, also addressed reports that Putin is ill or mentally unbalanced, saying he detected nothing to support those claims from the phone call.
"Mr. Putin had apparently been clear and concise in everything he said," the article said about Kalin's remarks.
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