By Grace Hwang
On the afternoon of Thursday, March 17, as Russia continued to intensify its military attacks on Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin sat down for a phone call with Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, to discuss exactly what his demands for Ukraine would be in order to reach a peace deal.
Putin laid out two different categories of demands, the first being relatively easy for Ukraine to meet, while the second being rather difficult. The chief component of this first category is that Ukraine remain neutral and not join NATO, which Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has already agreed to. The rest include undergoing a disarmament process, ensuring protection of the Russian language in Ukraine, and something called deNazification, in which Ukraine would have to crack down on those who promote Nazisim. The Turkish side, who has been acting as an intermediary between these two countries throughout this conflict, has expressed that Ukraine would be receptive to this first category of demands.
However, the second category is where Ukraine may face some difficulties. According to what Erdogan’s leading spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, revealed about this phone call between Putin and Erdogan, it is assumed that Russia will demand that Ukraine give up some of their territory in the east. It has also been assumed that Russia will demand that Ukraine formally accept Crimea as Russian territory, even though Russia had illegally annexed the peninsula in 2014. Russia had even previously signed an international treaty stating that Crimea belonged to Ukraine.
While this demand is by no means legal, some are relieved that Putin’s demands are not as harsh as they originally feared. However, serious anxieties for Ukraine will still remain. If the fine details of this agreement are not completely sorted out, Russia may use that as an excuse to invade Ukraine again in the future. And even if the peace deal goes smoothly, it will most likely take a long time to arrange and resolve.
An estimated 2,500 Ukrainian civilians and 3,000 armed forces have already been killed in this conflict so far, with the most recent attack coming in on the Mariupol theater earlier this week. More than three million refugees have fled Ukraine with nearly nothing to their names, flooding the surrounding European nations. And those still remaining in Ukraine struggle to find safety and basic essentials, with some of their homes and towns completely devastated. Time will only be able to tell what the future holds for Ukraine and the rest of the world.