Russia Claims Dispute Over Crimea, Donbas Has Been 'Settled' With Ukraine

Russia has claimed that negotiations taking place in Turkey this week have resulted in "significant progress," and also claimed that the issues of sovereignty over the Crimea and Donbas regions have been settled. This claim, however, was quickly rebuffed by Ukrainian officials.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Wednesday that he believes Ukraine has understood the necessity for the nation to be a "non-nuclear, non-bloc" country and not join NATO. He also said the issues of Crimea and Donbas, two contested regions in Ukraine in recent years, have been resolved.

"Lavrov demonstrates misunderstanding of the negotiation process," Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Oleg Nikolenko responded. "The issues of Crimea and Donbas will be settled for good after Ukraine restores its sovereignty over them. During the talks in Istanbul, the Ukrainian delegation presented its proposals on how to achieve this goal."

Negotiations have been taking place in Turkey, with American and Ukrainian officials cautioning the world against taking Russia at its word about this or other recent commitments to scale back military force in certain regions while the negotiations are ongoing.

Presidents Joe Biden and Volodymyr Zelensky each expressed skepticism at the claims that Russian forces were being partially withdrawn Tuesday, as the pair both said separately that they do not have much reason to trust the words of Russian officials.

Prior to the start of in-person negotiations, Russian officials said that "no significant achievements or breakthroughs" had been made in negotiations so far.

"We cannot and will not speculate about progress for the time being, but the very decision to go ahead with face-to-face talks is important, of course," Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Monday. "For now, we prefer to follow a policy of not disclosing any details of the talks. We believe that otherwise, we might harm the negotiating process."

Sunday, Zelensky reportedly made an offer to the Russians that if they removed their forces from Ukrainian territory all the way back to the Donbas region that has been contested for years, then progress could be made on resolving the issues regarding the region.

Earlier Wednesday, Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to the Ukrainian Minister of Internal Affairs, said that he believes Russian President Vladimir Putin is using the negotiations as a "breather" to reorganize Russian forces. He said Ukrainian cities are still being bombed during the negotiations and that Putin is still determined to destroy Ukraine.

Also Wednesday, it was reported that a U.S. intelligence official speaking to reporters said that Russian officials are unable or unwilling to tell Putin the truth about how the invasion is going, and are allegedly "too afraid" to tell him what's really happening.

Officials from the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv also claimed Wednesday that some Russian soldiers have switched sides, and joined the Ukrainian forces in fighting against Russia, claims which have not been verified by Newsweek.

Update 3/30/22, 2:35 p.m. ET: This story has been updated with additional information and context.

Sergey Lavrov Russia Ukraine Negotiations
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov claimed that significant progress has been made in negotiations between Russia and Ukraine in Turkey this week. Above, Lavrov lgives an annual press conference on Russian diplomacy in 2021, in Moscow on January 14. Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP via Getty Images