Ukraine’s negotiators want word ‘Russians’ to be forgotten

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Ukraine’s negotiators want word ‘Russians’ to be forgotten

Mikhail Podoliak, one of Ukraine's negotiators, said he wanted the very word 'Russians' forgotten in the Ukrainian regions that are currently not held by Kiev.

One of the top negotiators representing Ukraine in the stalled peace talks with Russia has apparently called for the extermination of those who call themselves the authorities in the Donetsk and Lugansk People s Republics, recognized in late February by Russia as independent states.

Mikhail Podoliak, an adviser to the head of the Office of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's office in Ukraine, expressed the wish that all these criminal elements that call themselves the authorities there be gone, physically gone once the Ukrainian military retakes Donbass.

Podoliak continued to define Ukraine's primary priority as liberating, and doing so in as tough a manner as possible, with respect to collaborators as well as Russian troops Kherson Region and Zaporozhye Region in the south of Ukraine. Retaking the areas would help Kiev regain access to the Sea of Azov, something Ukraine needs, according to the adviser.

The official said he wants the word Russians to be forgotten and consigned to history in the Kharkov region, which borders Russia, and where Kiev is mounting a counter-offensive as well as in the Lugansk and Donetsk regions, which were recognized as independent by Moscow in late February.

Podoliak took part in the peace negotiations between Moscow and Kiev in late February, shortly after Russia attacked the neighboring state. Several rounds of talks took place in Belarus, as well as via a video link throughout March, with both sides reporting modest progress.

The two delegations met in Istanbul on March 29 with Russia's chief negotiator, Vladimir Medinsky, the following day claiming that Ukraine had agreed in principle to become a neutral state, renounce its desire to obtain nuclear weapons and conduct troop exercises only with the consent of the guarantor states, including Russia.

In early April, Kiev accused Russian troops who had held the area of committing atrocities after the discovery of mass graves allegedly containing bodies of Ukrainian civilians in the town of Bucha. President Volodymyr Zelensky said that the supposed crimes against civilians complicated further dialogue. Russia has denied any involvement and insisted that the harrowing scenes in Bucha had been staged by Ukrainian forces to frame the retreating Russian troops. Moscow claimed that Ukrainian officials had moved away from some of the key points agreed upon in Istanbul.

On April 12, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the peace talks had returned to a deadlock after Ukraine refused to recognize Crimea as Russian and the Donbass republics as independent.

In early May Ukrainian newspaper Ukrayinska Pravda ran a report suggesting UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson's visit to Kiev on April 9 that emboldened Ukraine's leadership and led them to abandon attempts at a peaceful resolution to the conflict. According to the outlet, Johnson made it clear that the West was opposed to Ukraine signing any kind of agreement with Russia, citing officials close to Zelensky.

The Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrey Rudenko indicated on Thursday that Russia was ready to restart the talks, adding that it was our Ukrainian partners who had put the negotiations on hold.