Ukraine's foreign minister said his nation wants a UN-backed peace summit to end the war early in 2023, but only if Russia has faced a war crime tribunal first.
Dmytro Kuleba made the comments in a new interview, telling journalists the peace summit should be held by the end of February at the United Nations, with Secretary-General António Guterres as mediator.
But Kuleba doesn't anticipate Russia taking part, which makes it hard to foresee the devastating invasion ending soon.
“Every war ends in a diplomatic way," the foreign minister said. “Every war ends as a result of the actions taken on the battlefield and at the negotiating table.”
The Associated Press interview offered a glimpse at Ukraine's vision of how the war with Russia could one day end, although any peace talks would be months away and highly contingent on complex international negotiations.
Kuleba said that Russia must face a war crimes tribunal before his country directly talks with Moscow. He said, however, that other nations should feel free to engage with Russians, as happened before a grain agreement between Turkey and Russia.
Ukraine's top diplomat said during the interview at the Foreign Ministry that Ukraine will do whatever it can to win the war in 2023 -- and that he was "absolutely satisfied" with the results of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's visit to the US before Christmas, and revealed that the US government had made a special plan to get the Patriot missile battery ready to be operational in the country in less than six months. Usually, the training takes up to a year.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said last week that no Ukrainian peace plan can succeed without taking into account “the realities of today that can’t be ignored” -- a reference to Moscow’s demand that Ukraine recognise Russia’s sovereignty over the Crimean Peninsula, which was annexed in 2014, as well as other territorial gains.
Kuleba said the Ukrainian government would like to have the “peace” summit by the end of February.
“The United Nations could be the best venue for holding this summit, because this is not about making a favor to a certain country," he said. “This is really about bringing everyone on board.”
At the G20 summit in Bali in November, Zelenskyy made the long-distance presentation of a 10-point peace formula that includes the restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, the withdrawal of Russian troops, the release of all prisoners, a tribunal for those responsible for the aggression and security guarantees for Ukraine.
Asked about whether they would invite Russia to the summit, he said that Moscow would first need to face prosecution for war crimes at an international court.
“They can only be invited to this step in this way," Kuleba said.
About UN Secretary-General's role, Kuleba said: “He has proven himself to be an efficient mediator and an efficient negotiator, and most importantly, as a man of principle and integrity. So we would welcome his active participation.”
The UN spokesman’s office had no immediate comment.
Other world leaders have also offered to mediate, such as those in Turkey and Saudi Arabia.
The foreign minister again downplayed comments by Russian authorities that they are ready for talks.
"They (Russians) regularly say that they are ready for negotiations, which is not true, because everything they do on the battlefield proves the opposite,” he said.
Russian president Vladimir Putin claimed few days ago that his country is ready for talks to end the war in Ukraine, but suggested that the Ukrainians are the ones refusing to take that step. Despite Putin's comments, Moscow's forces have kept attacking Ukraine -- a sign that peace isn't imminent.
Zelenskyy's visit to the US was his first foreign trip since the war started on 24 February. Kuleba praised Washington's efforts and underlined the significance of the visit.
"This shows how both the United States are important for Ukraine, but also how Ukraine is important for the United States,” said Kuleba, who was part of the delegation to Washington.
Ukraine secured a new $1.8 billion (€1.69b) military aid package, including a Patriot missile battery, during the trip.
Kuleba said that the move “opens the door for other countries to do the same.”
During Russia’s ground and air war in Ukraine, Kuleba has been second only to Zelenskyy in carrying Ukraine's message and needs to an international audience, whether through Twitter posts or meetings with friendly foreign officials.