Ukraine-Russia border ‘demilitarised zone’ floated for peace deal

Adviser to Ukraine’s presidential office Mykhailo Podolyak said the demilitarised zone should be between 100-120km wide.

An aerial view of damaged private houses, shell and rocket craters in the suburbs of Donetsk, the site of fierce battles with the Russian forces, Ukraine, Friday, May 26, 2023. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky
An aerial view of damaged private houses and shell and rocket craters in the suburbs of Donetsk, Ukraine, on May 26, 2023 [Efrem Lukatsky/AP]

A demilitarised zone between 100 and 120 kilometres wide (62 to 75 miles) should be established in Russian border territory with Ukraine as part of any post-war settlement, an adviser to Ukraine’s presidential office has said.

Mykhailo Podolyak, the adviser to the head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, said the demilitarised zone should cover the Russian regions of Belgorod, Bryansk, Kursk and Rostov in order to protect adjacent territories in Ukraine.

“To ensure real security for residents of Kharkiv, Chernihiv, Sumy, Zaporizhzhia, Luhansk, and Donetsk regions and protect them from shelling, it will be necessary to introduce a demilitarisation zone of 100-120km,” Podolyak wrote in a tweet on Monday.

Such a zone, which cannot be used or occupied by military forces, would likely require “a mandatory international control contingent at the first stage”, Podolyak said.

A demilitarised zone should be a “key topic” of a post-war settlement, said the presidential adviser, who has 1.2 million Twitter followers, adding that such a buffer would “prevent the recurrence of aggression in the future”.

The International Committee of the Red Cross says there are detailed rules for the creation and recognition of demilitarised zones and the concept is not far removed from hospital zones and other areas deemed neutral during conflicts.

An aide to Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy also said on Monday that Ukraine had no interest in any ceasefire that locks in Russian territorial gains.

Chief diplomatic adviser Ihor Zhovkva also pushed back against international peace initiatives from China, Brazil, the Vatican and South Africa, saying that the time for mediation with Moscow had passed.

“In this period of open war, we don’t need any mediators. It’s too late for mediation,” he said. “There cannot be a Brazilian peace plan, a Chinese peace plan, a South African peace plan when you are talking about the war in Ukraine,” Zhovkva said in an interview with the Reuters news agency.

Russia has said it is open to peace talks with Kyiv, which stalled a few months into the invasion. But Moscow also insists that any talks be based on “new realities”, meaning recognition of the annexation of five Ukrainian provinces it fully or partly controls – a condition Kyiv will not accept.

China has touted a 12-point vision for peace, which calls for a ceasefire but does not condemn the invasion or oblige Russia to withdraw from occupied territories.

Beijing, which has close ties with Russia’s leadership, sent top envoy Li Hui to Kyiv and Moscow this month to encourage peace talks.

Zhovkva said the envoy was briefed in detail on the situation on the battlefield, at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, the power grid and the transfer of Ukrainian children to Russia, which Kyiv says is a Russian war crime.

“He listened very attentively. There was no immediate response … we will see. China is a wise country, which understands its role in international affairs,” Zhovkva said.

The Institute for the Study of War, a think tank based in Washington, DC, said on Monday that China’s foreign ministry had denied a report in the Wall Street Journal newspaper that China’s special representative on Eurasian affairs had urged European officials to attempt to end the war in Ukraine before it escalated or consider recognising  Russian annexed territory in Ukraine.

China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning denied the report, adding that Ukraine was now at a “critical juncture” and China would continue to work with all parties to resolve the crisis, the institute reported.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies