LONDON (Reuters) – Ukraine and Russia are taking peace talks seriously but a very big gap remains between the two sides, Western officials said on Thursday, adding Russian President Vladimir Putin did not seem in the mood to compromise.
Although both sides have pointed to limited progress in peace talks this week, Putin showed little sign of relenting during a televised speech in which he inveighed against “traitors and scum” at home who helped the West, and said the Russian people would spit them out like gnats.
“Both sides are taking (the talks) seriously but there is a very, very big gap between the positions in question,” one Western official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“Those … who saw President Putin addressing the nation yesterday would be forgiven for thinking that Russia was not in compromising mood,” another official said.
A Ukrainian negotiator has said that a “model” of legally binding security guarantees that would offer Ukraine protection from a group of allies in the event of a future attack is “on the negotiating table” at talks between Kyiv and Moscow.
A Western official said the details of who would be a security guarantor was the subject of conversations with international partners but it was important to establish the terms.
Asked about China’s role in the conflict and its willingness to supply arms to Russia, the Western officials said they believed China’s response was still in the process of being formulated.
“Their leadership would like to be supportive of Russia … but are increasingly aware … of a) how badly this is going at the moment and b) some of the reputational blow back associated with being in the Russian camp,” one official said. “It is a complex picture and by no means a static one.”
(Reporting by Alistair Smout and Kylie MacLellan; editing by Michael Holden)