Peace talks can stop a nuclear war in Ukraine, says former Kremlin minister

Ukraine: Volodymyr Zelensky expresses frustration with Nato

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As the two nations held a video call, Prof Igor Ivanov called for all sides to return to diplomacy to reduce “the dramatically elevated risk” of a nuclear conflict. The appeal by the Russian International Affairs Council president could be a sign some in the Russian foreign policy establishment believe a military solution is a mistake.

Prof Ivanov was made foreign minister under Boris Yeltsin in 1998 and resigned in 2004, four years into Vladimir Putin’s presidency.

His statement urged all sides to back a ceasefire and end the “unjustifiable” loss of civilian lives. It was also signed by Sam Nunn, the former US senator and Des Browne, the former UK defence secretary.

The statement said: “The firefight at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine was the latest reminder of how nuclear catastrophe can quickly rise to the surface in the fog of war.”

Turkey has offered to act as a mediator, and has hosted talks between Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, and his Ukrainian counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba.

Meanwhile, the US began talks with China yesterday after accusing Beijing of suggesting it was open to a move to provide military and economic support to Russia.

America has warned China not to get involved.

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Analysis by Abigail Blyth 

Since the start of this year, the media rhetoric has centred around Russia’s relations with the West.

Moscow Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met US counterpart Antony Blinken in Geneva, and French President Emmanuel Macron has held several talks in person and by phone with Vladimir Putin.

One country, however, has been omitted from discussions – China. Could it hold the key to ending the carnage in Ukraine?

Russia and China have become ever closer in recent years, sharing their dissatisfaction with the Western-dominated international system.

Hopes for regional security in central Asia also tie them.

But there is increasingly a discrepancy in the power dynamic between the two, with China very firmly having the upper hand.

In 2018, 15.5 percent of Russian trade was with China, but just 0.8 percent of China’s was with Russia.

Following sanctions on Moscow, Russia’s financial situation has deteriorated.

It would only get worse if China exerted the economic power it has over Russia, which could prove central to ending the conflict.

Chinese desires to end the conflict have been on display to an extent.

Its abstention from a UN Security Council draft resolution on halting the invasion was a massive diplomatic move.

It signalled Beijing would not prevent the resolution being passed, or the subsequent discussion in an emergency session of the UN General Assembly.

For a country with close ties to Russia, it suggested a difference of opinion, evident in Chinese Premier Xi Jinping’s phrasing that the countries were partners, not allies. If only for self-serving purposes, China will want the conflict to end.

The longer it goes on, the more international attention may focus on Chinese intentions towards Taiwan and in the South China Sea.

China holds the key to ending the Ukrainian conflict. The question is, will they use it?

• Abigail Blyth is from Nottingham University

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