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Ukraine could invite Russia to next peace talks – Zelensky aide

Kiev is open to Moscow’s participation in the next peace conference, Vladimir Zelensky’s chief of staff Andrey Yermak has said.

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Yermak held a conference call with reporters late on Tuesday, to offer Kiev’s perspective on the so-called peace summit held over the weekend at a resort in Lucerne, Switzerland. He revealed that working groups are already preparing a follow-up meeting.

“All of these parts will be part of this joint plan, which will be supported by a number of countries” at the next meeting, Yermak said, according to Bloomberg. “We think it will be possible to invite [a] representative of Russia.”

While Kiev has enjoyed the support of the US and its allies in the conflict with Moscow, Zelensky has long sought to get approval from more countries for his “peace formula.” The conference in Switzerland was a failure in that respect, with some of the participants refusing to sign the final communique and others withdrawing their signatures. 

Multiple countries – most notably China – turned down invitations to attend the conference because Russia was not invited, arguing that this rendered any idea of peace talks meaningless from the start. Zelensky’s government has outlawed any talks with the current Russian leadership.

Yermak insisted that the Swiss conference had been a success and said the next meeting will be “more representative.” Ukraine is “realistic” and seeks to unite “responsible countries” in support of Zelensky’s formula, he added.

Moscow has dismissed Kiev’s proposed peace blueprint as unrealistic and even ridiculous, since it envisioned Russia giving up Crimea, paying reparations and submitting to a war crimes tribunal, among other things. On the eve of the Swiss conference, Russian President Vladimir Putin presented Moscow’s set of preconditions for peace talks, starting with Kiev’s recognition of Russian sovereignty over Crimea, Donetsk, Lugansk, Kherson and Zaporozhye.

According to the Russian ambassador to the US, Anatoly Antonov, the Swiss conference was really intended to soothe doubts about the legitimacy of Zelensky’s government, “which has already been bankrupt for a long time, both politically and economically.” 

The Ukrainian president’s term officially ended on May 20, and the country’s constitution does not provide for a way to extend it. Meanwhile, some Ukrainian officials have complained that Yermak has been the real power in Kiev and that his purges of rival officials have eroded trust of the West. 

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