Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, met in Turkey Thursday, to find a diplomatic solution to the conflict in Ukraine, the first such high-level meeting since Moscow launched an invasion against its neighbor two weeks ago.
The talks in the southern Turkish resort of Antalya were joined by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. Turkey has, for weeks, sought a role in mediating the two sides. But there were few expectations at the outset Thursday’s high-level diplomatic push would result in any meaningful progress.
Speaking at a news conference at the conclusion of the talks, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said he and Lavrov made no progress in brokering a 24-hour cease-fire, adding it appeared Russia will continue its offensive until Ukraine surrenders, something he said Kyiv will not do.
Speaking separately, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia’s military operation was going according to plan and accused the West of “behaving dangerously” over Ukraine.
The Turkish initiative is among several diplomatic efforts at resolving the escalating conflict — both Israel and France are hoping to find a solution via direct talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The flurry of diplomacy comes amid international condemnation of an airstrike Wednesday on a maternity hospital in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol that Ukrainian officials say killed at least three people, including a child.
“Three people were killed, including a female child, in yesterday’s attack on a children’s and maternity hospital in Ukraine’s besieged Mariupol, according to updated figures this morning,” the Mariupol city council said on its Telegram channel.
Russia has denied targeting civilians in its invasion of Ukraine, calling allegations it bombed a maternity hospital “fake news.” It said the building was a former maternity hospital that had long been taken over by troops.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called the hospital attack “genocide” and again called on NATO to impose a no-fly zone in Ukraine, declaring, “you have power but you seem to be losing humanity.”
The United States has resisted that call, noting that a no-fly zone, as well as a proposal by Poland to transfer Russian-made fighter jets to a U.S. air base and then on to Ukraine, would effectively draw the U.S. into a direct confrontation with Russia.
More defense to Ukraine
A senior U.S. defense official told reporters Wednesday the United States is in talks with Ukraine and other “allies and partners” to provide Kyiv with defensive weapons that do not involve more air defense capabilities.
The U.S., however, has deployed two Patriot surface-to-air missile batteries in Poland, according to Marine Captain Adam Miller, U.S. European Command spokesperson. Miller said in a statement Wednesday that the missile batteries, normally stationed in Germany, were repositioned at Poland’s invitation.
“This defensive deployment is being conducted proactively to counter any potential threat to U.S. and allied forces and NATO territory,” Miller said.
VOA’s Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb and national security correspondent Jeff Seldin contributed to this report. Some information also came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.