By John Simpson
Turkey has positioned itself with great care to be the go-between with Russia and Ukraine – and this seems to be paying off.
On Thursday afternoon, President Vladimir Putin rang the Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and told him what Russia’s precise demands were for a peace deal with Ukraine.
Within half an hour of the ending of the phone call, I interviewed Mr Erdogan’s leading adviser and spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin. Mr Kalin was part of the small group of officials who had listened in on the call.
The Russian demands fall into two categories.
The first four demands are, according to Mr Kalin, not too difficult for Ukraine to meet.
Chief among them is an acceptance by Ukraine that it should be neutral and should not apply to join Nato. Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has already conceded this.
There are other demands in this category which mostly seem to be face-saving elements for the Russian side.
Ukraine would have to undergo a disarmament process to ensure it wasn’t a threat to Russia. There would have to be protection for the Russian language in Ukraine. And there is something called de-Nazification.
This is deeply offensive to Mr Zelensky, who is himself Jewish and some of whose relatives died in the Holocaust, but the Turkish side believes it will be easy enough for Mr Zelensky to accept. Perhaps it will be enough for Ukraine to condemn all forms of neo-Nazism and promise to clamp down on them.
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Russia’s demands are rational and have paramount importance for his security.
Hopefully west would try to let Ukraine accept rather continue his desire to make enemy financially weaker. In this desire world can face dangerous consequences.