04/29/2021, 15.06
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Zelenskii invites Putin to the Vatican. The conflict in Donbass and Crimea widens

by Vladimir Rozanskij

The Ukrainian president pushes the Russian leader to resume communications between Russia and Ukraine. A Biden-Putin meeting is also hypothesized. Moscow claims its "neutrality" on the Donbass. Without Ukraine, Crimea suffers from drought.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyj told the press yesterday that the Vatican would be the ideal place to meet Russian leader Vladimir Putin, to talk about peace in the Donbass. Zelenskii (photo 1) expressed this desire in an interview with the Italian Newspaper La Repubblica, also reported on the official website of the Ukrainian president.

The article notes that the Vatican "is a global moral authority, which always effectively exercises the role of mediator, always being disinterested and having no political and economic purposes to defend". Zelenskii acknowledged that many issues concerning the Donbass still remain unresolved, and it is not clear what the agenda for the negotiations should be. In his opinion, "a real direct communication between Russia and Ukraine is necessary, which has not been undertaken for a long time".

On April 20, the Ukrainian president had proposed to Putin to meet "anywhere in the Donbass, where the conflict is taking place". On the 22nd, the Russian leader replied that "if we talk about the problems of the Donbass, then the Ukrainian president should first meet with the heads of the autonomous regions of Lugansk and Donetsk" and only after that, evaluate the remaining problems with Russia. In this way, Putin continues to "write himself out" of the conflict, proposing himself as a "third party" between nationalists and separatists in Ukraine. The Russian leader also added that, under these conditions, he will be happy to welcome Zelenskii to Moscow at any time.

Zelenskii announced that he had entrusted his deputy Andrej Ermak with the task of organizing a meeting with Putin, underlining that he was more interested in the contents of the meeting, rather than in the place where it took place. The Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, reiterated on April 27 that Russia does not see the need for such a meeting with respect to the ongoing conflict in the Donbass, in which Russia is not participate directly; moreover, a concrete proposal for a place is expected from Ukraine. Hence the proposal to meet in the Vatican.

The meeting therefore remains pending, also because Ukraine does not intend to meet the Donbass separatists in advance, recognized by Moscow, but not by Kiev. However, the proposed meeting serves to defuse the prospect of a resumption of large scale hostilities, and is intertwined with the possibility of a meeting between Putin and Biden, which has also been talked about for several days.

The US president has announced an upcoming trip to Europe, and it is likely that he also wants to meet the "killer" in the Kremlin. It is unlikely that Biden and Putin will be able to impose conditions on Ukraine, but there will still be some consequences for the conflict in Donbass.

Another chapter of the confrontation between Russia and Ukraine concerns the territory of Crimea annexed by the Russians in 2014, which has been experiencing a serious water supply crisis for some time (photo 2). After the separation from Ukraine, the remaining aquifers are limited in number. A particularly dry winter in 2020 and the following months led to drought in the North Crimean canal, which was the main source of water throughout the peninsula, and which has no longer been fed by Ukraine since 2014.

The Russian authorities have declared their intention to search for deposits of drinking water under the bottom of the Azov Sea, prompting strong reactions from the Ukrainian side. Deputy Minister Igor Jaremenko, who has the mandate for the reintegration of the occupied territories of Ukraine, said in an interview with currentime.tv that he considers this idea "absolutely baseless, created by the most banal imagination rather than by science, to reassure the population of the occupied territory with fairy tales…

Since 2014 the Russians have made a lot of promises to the inhabitants of Crimea, without achieving anything concrete”. The Sea of ​​Azov has always been "in common" between the two countries; not even theoretical lines of aquifer boundaries have ever been drawn, and would therefore become a new conflict zone.

Ukraine would not refuse to renew the water supply to Crimea in the event of a humanitarian catastrophe, but still demand the withdrawal of Russia from the occupied territory.

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