Zelenskyy renews diplomacy, Biden signals air defences a priority

Ukrainian president spends Sunday in talks with US, French and Turkish presidents amid fierce, protracted battles on eastern front.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy seen looking at the camera and surrounded by military service members during his visit to Kherson, Ukraine on November 14, 2022.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy says Ukraine and the United States have 'coordinated' their positions ahead of G7 talks later on Monday [File: Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP Photo)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has stepped up diplomacy over Russia’s invasion of his country, holding talks with the leaders of the United States, Turkey and France amid protracted fighting on the eastern front of the nine-month-old war.

While Zelenskyy has held frequent talks with US President Joe Biden, French President Emmanuel Macron and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan since Russian forces invaded in late February, it is unusual for him to hold such discussions over a single day.

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

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is due to convene an online meeting with G7 leaders and European Union foreign ministers on Monday to try and agree on further sanctions on Russia and additional aid or arms deliveries to Ukraine.

Successive Russian missile and drone attacks have destroyed much of the country’s energy infrastructure, leaving millions of civilians without power and heating at a time when temperatures are at or below freezing.

Zelenskyy said he had thanked Biden for the “unprecedented defence and financial” assistance the United States had provided and talked about Ukraine’s need for effective anti-aircraft defence systems to protect its people.

“We also appreciate the help that the USA is providing to restore Ukraine’s energy system,” he said.

He said Ukraine would be participating in the G7 meeting and that following the call Kyiv had “coordinated our positions with America”.

In a statement afterwards, the White House said Biden stressed the US was making efforts to boost Ukraine’s air defences a priority.

More sanctions

The energy crunch also formed a key part of Zelenskyy’s earlier discussions with France’s Macron and Turkey’s Erdogan.

Zelenskyy described his more than one-hour conversation with Macron as “very meaningful” and covering “defence, energy, economy, diplomacy”.

Meanwhile, he also thanked Turkey for providing shelter to Ukrainian children and deploying hundreds of generators to cities across the country.

The Ukrainian president also said he and Erdogan discussed the possible expansion of the grain export deal that opened up Ukrainian ports for exports in July after a six-month de facto Russian blockade.

Turkey, which acted as a mediator in peace talks in the early months of the war, worked alongside the United Nations on that agreement.

Erdogan’s office said the Turkish leader also spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday and had called for a quick end to the conflict.

Putin last week warned of a protracted war, speaking of Moscow’s near-total loss of trust in Western countries which he said would make an eventual settlement over Ukraine much harder to reach.

Macron has championed diplomacy in the conflict but has unnerved Kyiv, some allies and the Baltic countries with what they see as 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.

The EU foreign ministers will discuss a ninth package of sanctions that could add almost 200 more individuals and entities to the EU sanctions list, as well as an additional 2 billion euros ($2.11bn) for arms deliveries to Ukraine.

Ships waiting in the Bosphorus for inspection under the UN's Black Sea grain initiative
The grain deal agreed in July formed part of the discussion between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan [Yoruk Isik/Reuters]

There are no ongoing peace talks and no end in sight to the deadliest conflict in Europe since World War Two.

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, soldiers are dug in along the front line in the east amid continued shelling and Zelenskyy said over the weekend that Russian attacks had left the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut in ruins.

The situation “remains very difficult” in several front-line cities in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk provinces, which together make up the provinces of the industrial Donbas, where Moscow-backed separatists have fought Kyiv since 2014.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies