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‘The world is waiting for good news’: Russian-Ukrainian peace talks continue in Turkey | Ukraine

By on March 29, 2022 0

SDrinking a tulip-shaped glass of Turkish black tea, Roman Abramovich sat on the sunny terrace of Istanbul’s Shangri-La Hotel on Tuesday afternoon and chatted intensely with the Ukrainian negotiating team.

Despite the restaurant’s full menu of seafood and burgers and the large refrigerator advertising its stock of dry-aged meat, the Russian oligarch didn’t appear to eat during the entire meeting. Less than 24 hours had passed since he reportedly exhibited symptoms consistent with poisoning.

Abramovich has become an unofficial conduit for Russian President Vladimir Putin. He was present on Tuesday for both the official Turkish-hosted morning talks between Russian and Ukrainian negotiators at Istanbul’s Dolmabahçe Palace and the informal meeting at the adjacent Shangri-La in the afternoon.

At the hotel, the billionaire former Chelsea owner sat down and spoke with Ukrainian MP Rustem Umerov, who was also believed to have suffered from symptoms after their previous round of unofficial talks.

Abramovich, who was surrounded by tight security, leaned down to speak with Umerov, later joined by Ukrainian parliamentary leader and head of the delegation, David Arakhamia. The rest of the Ukrainian delegation – including Defense Minister Olekseii Reznikov, dressed in military green – sat at the far end of the terrace, then rose to reveal a forest of half-empty wine glasses.

Russian presidential aide Vladimir Medinsky, left, and the leader of the Servant of the People’s Ukrainian faction, Davyd Arakhamia, pose for the media during talks between the Russian and Ukrainian delegations on Tuesday. Photography: AP

The restaurant’s long terrace overlooks the Bosphorus and the adjacent bustling Beşiktaş ferry stop, travelers thronging past seemingly unaware of their closeness to the group or their stealthy negotiations.

Russia has denied any poisoning plots and the allegations remain murky. Umerov himself has since said he is “fine” and called on people not to trust “unverified information”.

However, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told Ukrainian Channel 24 television ahead of the meeting: “I advise anyone negotiating with the Russian Federation not to eat or drink anything, and preferably avoid touching any surface.

At the previous official meeting at the palace, some progress appears to have been made. Despite the difficulties of the talks, the results appeared warmer and more productive than previous sessions in Belarus or talks between Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers in the southern Turkish city of Antalya.

The delegations conducted delicate face-to-face negotiations at a long conference table inside a stone-walled room, with photos from the meeting showing Abramovich seated at a small nearby table alongside the presidential spokesman. Turkish, İbrahim Kalın.

The talks followed a brief opening speech by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who addressed them from a lectern, saying: “The world is waiting for good news, and good news from you.”

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu told a press conference that “we see with satisfaction that the two sides are getting closer at every step.” He expressed hope that foreign ministers and later possibly even Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and Putin would meet.

Russian businessman Roman Abramovich
Russian businessman Roman Abramovich attended the peace talks less than 24 hours after reporting suffering symptoms of poisoning. Photography: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Later at the hotel, Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Zelenskiy, resisted further questions from reporters and disappeared under the crystal chandeliers in the hotel lobby.

After talking on the terrace, many members of the Ukrainian delegation settled inside the restaurant, out of sight of the public, to a large table laden with food. Once inside, Abramovich peeled off to sit alone on a plush couch to make a phone call, accompanied only by his glass of tea.

He then followed Umerov and other members of the Ukrainian delegation, holding padded blue binders, to another area of ​​the restaurant to continue their discussions until late in the afternoon, hours after the official talks had ended.

Outside, under the bright lights of the lobby, a Ukrainian general strode across the marble floor past an accompanying diplomat, who fell asleep in an armchair clutching a briefcase, exhausted from the day’s events.