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Ukrainian officials say they want to host a peace summit at the U.N. in February

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Ukrainian officials say they want to host a peace summit at the United Nations in February. Now, that would be one year since Russia launched its full-scale invasion against Ukraine. The proposal comes just a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin accused Ukraine of being unwilling to negotiate an end to the war. NPR's Julian Hayda has been following this from Kyiv. Julian, OK, so what can you tell us about this proposed peace summit?

JULIAN HAYDA, BYLINE: Yeah, so we learned about the summit yesterday in an interview that Ukraine's foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, gave the Associated Press. He said he wants the U.N. to mediate, especially Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, to be part of this mediating team and to have, quote, everybody "on board" with the Ukrainian peace plan. But I got to say, this peace plan sounds a lot more like a list of demands than any peace plan I know of.

Ukraine wants Russia to retreat to its pre-war borders. They want Crimea back. They want all of their prisoners of war to come home. And they want security guarantees from the West that something like this, this war, never happens again, that Russia is never allowed to invade someone like Ukraine again. And if that's not enough, Kuleba also says that he doesn't even want Russia at the summit until Russian officials are dragged in front of a war crimes tribunal. Now, that takes a really long time to set up. Tribunals like this take years, if not more.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah, and it seems like a list of demands that at least right now seems unlikely to happen, at least the way Ukraine wants it to happen. So what do you think is really going on here?

HAYDA: Yeah, Ukraine's president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, has expressed frustration with the U.N. He's repeatedly chastised them for being ineffective. He partially blames that on the fact that Russia has a seat on the Security Council, something that Ukraine is trying to get taken away from Russia. I think Ukraine is especially here at the U.N. trying to shore up international support as the war grinds into its second winter. Ukraine wants a broader coalition to help it take on Russia militarily and economically. The Ukrainians want cash. And they want Russia totally isolated.

Now, when President Zelenskyy was in Washington last week, he said on a bunch of occasions how much he wants the Global South to join in the sanctions regime against Russia. And he knows that, as ineffectual as he accuses the U.N. of being, it can make a difference. I mean, look at the grain deal that the U.N. bridged in July, making sure that ships loaded with Ukrainian foodstuffs reach famine-prone countries in Africa and Asia. Zelenskyy's hoping that if he keeps pushing the U.N., he can get some of those member states who are kind of on the fence to back Ukraine.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. Now, let's assume for just a second that they find a way to go ahead with this idea of a peace summit. Any reason at all to think that it could help change the direction of the war?

HAYDA: It's unlikely. Ukraine has been talking for quite a bit about how a negotiated settlement would look. You might remember back in March, Ukrainian and Russian negotiators appeared to be getting pretty close to some sort of negotiated settlement. But Ukraine began to reclaim territory. And all these atrocities began emerging. You might remember Bucha. And that was the end of that. I remember going with my NPR colleagues to visit Ukraine's top negotiator in the spring. And this negotiator said, of course Ukraine wants to negotiate, but only after things play out on the battlefield. And that's basically what Kuleba told the AP yesterday. He said, quote, "every war ends on the battlefield and at the negotiating table."

MARTÍNEZ: That's NPR's Julian Hayda. Thanks a lot.

HAYDA: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Julian Hayda