Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Reuters on Tuesday that Russia’s military offensive against Ukraine would come to a halt “in a moment” if Kyiv fulfills several essential conditions. Russia wants Ukraine to enshrine neutrality in its constitution, recognize Crimea as Russian, and recognize the republics of Donetsk and Lugansk as independent states.
“They should make amendments to their constitution that Ukraine would reject any goal of entering a bloc,” he added.
This request is essential, as a path to NATO membership was enshrined in Ukraine’s constitution in 2019. Ukraine’s membership of the Western alliance is seen as an unacceptable security threat by Moscow, and the bloc’s expansion has been compared by President Vladimir Putin to the idea of Russia placing missiles at the US border in Canada or Mexico. During the multiple rounds of negotiations leading up to the Russian offensive, Western leaders repeatedly refused to rule out Ukraine’s NATO membership.
Peskov told Reuters that Russia was not seeking to make any further territorial claims on Ukraine, but wanted Kiev to recognize Crimea as Russian territory. Considered Russian land since Imperial times, Crimea was an autonomous republic within the Soviet Union until it was ceded to the Ukrainian SSR by Nikita Kruschev in 1954. Crimea voted to join Russia in 2014, after several attempts by its population to break away from Ukraine after the end of the USSR.
After amending its constitution and recognizing Russian sovereignty, Ukraine must “recognize that Donetsk and Lugansk are independent states. And that’s all. It will stop in a moment,” Peskov said.
Ukrainian forces have waged a military campaign against the two breakaway regions, collectively known as Donbass, since 2014. Russia has accused the Ukrainians of carrying out a “genocide” against the Russian-speaking Donbass, and Putin recognized the two republics last month, a day before launching what he called a “Military Operation” to “demilitarize” and “denazify” Ukraine.
History has been unkind to nations when they tolerate or appease such aggression. The concepts of territorial integrity and democracy cannot end at NATO’s borders. Is the rest of the world to be left to the wolves while there is but one island of security? Russia’s attack on Ukraine cannot succeed if we hope to build and sustain the benefits of democracy beyond NATO’s borders.
Ukraine is a country in Europe. It exists next to another country called Russia. Russia is a bigger country. Russia is a powerful country. Russia decided to invade a smaller country called Ukraine. So basically, that’s wrong.