Peace Negotiators Told To 'Avoid' Food And Drink Over Abramovich Poisoning Fears
Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba advised negotiators in Turkey not to eat or drink anything while they undergo peace talks with Russia.
Negotiators for the two countries began fresh talks at the Dolmabahçe Palace in Istanbul today (29 March), marking the delegations’ first face-to-face meeting in more than two weeks.
Before the talks were opened by Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Kuleba conducted an interview on television in which he appeared to make reference to reports Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich and two Ukrainian negotiators presented symptoms of poisoning after talks in early March.
Ihor Zhovkva, the deputy head of the president's office, told BBC Newshour the members of the Ukrainian delegation are 'fine' and claimed one of the delegates had said the story was 'false', but Kuleba did not appear to want to take any risks as he offered his advice for those in attendance at the negotiations.
He commented: "I advise anyone going for negotiations with the Russian federation not to eat or drink anything and preferably, to avoid touching any surface."
Abramovich, who owns Chelsea football club, was reported to have suffered sore eyes and peeling skin as a result of the alleged poisoning, though has since recovered.
He has been seen at the talks today speaking with Erdoğan after taking on the mediation role, which has seen him fly between Moscow and Kyiv.
The Turkish president urged both sets of negotiators to 'put an end to this tragedy' which has been ongoing for more than a month.
Per The Guardian, he said each side had 'legitimate concerns' but stressed the conflict had 'entered a period where concrete results are needed'.
The Turkish president also argued it should be 'possible to reach a solution acceptable to the international community' and pointed out: "Prolonging the conflict is not in anyone's interest."
Kuleba expressed hopes the talks will at least bring an end to Ukraine's humanitarian catastrophe, and at most result in a ceasefire.
Ukraine's president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said Ukraine was prepared to accept one of Russia's key demands and declare neutrality, though Kuleba said Ukraine is 'not trading people, land or sovereignty', adding: "If we see that the mood has changed and they are ready for a serious, substantive conversation and balanced arrangements, then things will move forward.”
If the talks result in what Kuleba described as a 'repetition of [Russia's] propaganda', then they will fail again, he said.
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