On March 10, in tourist Antalya, at the Regnum Hotel, the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Russia and Ukraine Sergey Lavrov and Dmitry Kuleba met. About how the ministers failed to agree on anything – a special correspondent of “Kommersant” Andrei Kolesnikov.
Sergei Lavrov and his delegation arrived in Antalya the evening before the talks. Already at dusk, the members of the delegation and the staff of the protocol, Russian and Turkish, studied the territory of the hotel in order to resolve the delicate issues of logistics. The organizers, of course, were aware that, in the end, the foreign ministers of two warring (well, competing) states would meet, and no one needed misunderstandings here.
The situation did not look easy. For example, two halls, where the ministers’ press conferences were supposed to take place at the same time, turned out to be fifty meters from each other, and a waiting room for journalists was also arranged between them. Each correspondent had the right to decide which door he would enter. What will you find for yourself if you go to the left. And if to the right – what will you lose … Or maybe yourself … Tension, at least internal, was guaranteed by this presented format itself. And what, was it really bursting, especially for Western journalists, many of whom were accredited to the peaceful Anatolian diplomatic forum, which was supposed to start only the next day, a month ago?
There was a question about where to hold a bilateral meeting between Sergei Lavrov and his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu. Two of its main participants were then to very quickly get into trilateral negotiations, already with the participation of Dmitry Kuleba … We stopped at a villa half a kilometer from the main building of Regnum …
Or, for example, it turned out that Mr. Kuleba intends to speak English at the negotiations. Then Mr. Lavrov, who at first was going to use translators, including from Ukrainian, decided that it was good, in English, so in English (according to the protocol, it would still be more correct to express himself in the language of his country).
By morning, the formalities were largely over. Members of the delegation, among whom the official representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Maria Zakharova stood out, left the doors of the central building.
Maria Zakharova stood out first of all with an extensive black, artificial leather rose on her chest, an emblem, as you know, of sadness; and indeed, there was nothing to rejoice at, including these negotiations themselves – no one had any illusions about their outcome, in my opinion, from the very beginning.
On one golf cart, members of the delegation rushed to the villa.
“Well, this is the place. Here it is! – Alexander Grushko, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, rejoiced. – I told you, we were here! .. Here is this pool … The water is five hundred meters to the left and five hundred meters to the right! .. This is not forgotten …
Indeed, this is where the G20 summit took place in November 2015. But it was still warmer.
Meanwhile, Mr. Cavusoglu was the first to arrive at the villa. He approached his Russian colleagues, peered at them and asked tensely: “Normal?”
He, no doubt, was satisfied that the peacekeeping mission was sent in his country, and even in such a cult place.
Yes, everything was fine so far.
The negotiations at the villa took less than an hour, and were, of course, a formal warm-up before the main story. Members of the delegation who did not participate in them waited in a separate bungalow, which is a standard hotel room. It was the perfect lounge that negotiators at any summit can only dream of. That is, it had two beds. And here, in the morning twilight, it was possible to just relax.
Negotiations with Dmitry Kuleba took place, as planned, in the main building. In the lobby, I noticed quite a few people actually relaxing, mostly with bags stuffed not with salt, for example, with matches or sugar, but with golf clubs. It was possible to confuse them only with a few cameramen with tripods, but in fact it was impossible, of course, to confuse them.
First, Messrs. Lavrov and Cavusoglu, who had finished negotiations, entered the corps and greeted each other as if nothing had happened.
At the same time, everyone was wondering if Sergey Lavrov and Dmitry Kuleba would say hello. No, just everything was arranged to prevent this from happening: when the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine entered the negotiation room, the Russian Foreign Minister was already sitting at the table marked with the letter P (“the crossbar was given to the Turkish minister”). That is, no one now could say that someone defiantly didn’t shake something for someone …
They talked for an hour and a half. Yes, in English. According to Kommersant’s information, Mr. Lavrov immediately stated that he would listen to his Ukrainian colleague with interest (later, at a press conference, he seemed to make a slip: “My Ukrainian Kuleba and I…”). In response, Dmitry Kuleba said that he would not repeat what he had repeatedly said.
In principle, after the exchange of these remarks, the fate of the talks, already understandable, finally became clear.
According to Kommersant’s information, both ministers tried several more times over the next hour and a half to find out what they had come to each other with then.
While all this was going on in the “one plus one” format (Andrey Rudenko, Deputy Minister, also took part in them from the Russian side), in the next room, which was called “Ficus”, the rest of the delegation was waiting for them to finish.
“Flowers should be removed from the table at the press conference… No time for flowers now…” ordered Maria Zakharova, ignoring, however, the black bud on her chest.
“So, we have to divert our attention to the Council of Europe…” Mr. Grushko seemed to be reluctantly immersed in papers.
Meanwhile, there was something to plunge into: it was at that moment that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs published an unprecedented, in my opinion, national argument about withdrawing from the Council of Europe … It was not just a lot of personal things. Everything about him seemed personal.
In the hall where the press conference was about to begin, by this time a lot of journalists had concentrated. It seems that the majority preferred Mr. Lavrov to his Ukrainian counterpart. Here the journalists expected surprises, including such an impression from themselves. Yes, and at least the girls from Femen should have made themselves known. And in general.
But none of this, I must say, did not happen. The minister walked calmly to his seat.
But in the end, there was still a whole press conference to come.
No, Maria Zakharova knew what to wear to the event (the night before, she walked along the route). The table was draped in black, and so was the floor… The decor was kept strictly in the spirit of the situation. This did not cause any surprise, let alone a feeling of protest. Everything here was as it should be.
And the very first question was about whether Russia was thinking of attacking other countries as well.
The question was asked, of course, by a Turkish journalist.
Mr. Lavrov dissuaded, but before the invasion of Ukraine, he also dissuaded, and, presumably, quite sincerely.
Now I couldn’t believe the worst. But it has definitely not been ruled out (although, it seems, it has already happened for several days).
Are we planning to attack other countries? No, we do not plan to attack other countries. We didn’t attack Ukraine either…” Sergei Lavrov said at last.
This, I’m afraid, the negotiations in Antalya will be remembered.
Sergei Lavrov was asked how the shelling of a maternity hospital in Mariupol could be justified and whether he knew that Russia was in danger of default, which would send the country into a situation comparable only to 1917.
The minister said that in fact there were no women in labor and doctors in the maternity hospital for a long time, and that the fighters of the nationalist battalion “Azov” completely occupied it, and that this was already said three days ago at a meeting of the UN Security Council …
“We will come out of this crisis with a healthier consciousness and without illusions…” Sergey Lavrov argued, “that the West can be a reliable partner (and it looks like, with confidence, that Russia can.”— A.K.)… We now know that the West will betray anyone… That the right to private property can be trampled on with just a snap of two fingers!.. That the presumption of innocence, as a pillar of the Western legal system, can be ignored and grossly violated!.. I assure you, we will manage we will definitely make it!
Whom did he convince now, them or himself?.. Yes, all at once.
Answering the next question, Sergei Lavrov stated that “President Putin did not refuse to meet with President Zelensky,” but then he made it clear that they had absolutely nothing to talk about, at least not yet…
Gradually, the feeling of doom, which replaced the hope with which I myself, realizing that this was not at all the case to nourish it, still went here, to Antalya, began to intensify, and even rapidly. They did not agree on anything and could not agree, although, perhaps, they themselves were counting on some kind of miracle … And this was mortally insulting, and simply, frankly, to tears.
Mr. Lavrov only said that the package of documents proposed for signing by Ukraine is in the hands of the negotiating group of Belarus, and they, apparently, had at least some kind of mandate.
But the main thing is that this disgusting feeling before your eyes is even further away, quite, it seems, beyond the horizon of the receding world …
Sergey Lavrov called the statements in the question of the correspondent of the Public Television of Ukraine fakes, not facts. However, it was still a strangely peaceful correspondent who, probably, could present something even more misanthropic, but did not do it …
“I think you have already been filmed and will be shown with good fanfare in your homeland,” the Russian Foreign Minister assured him.
And again he was asked about the hospital, and ten minutes later – again. And again there was the question of why a ceasefire was not agreed at these negotiations.
“Nobody here was going to negotiate a ceasefire!” Sergey Lavrov shrugged his shoulders.
He called British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss “Liza”, and it sounded like Sergey Lavrov, apparently, wanted.
And all the time he twisted this wire from the microphone in his hands. Just don’t stop.
I asked him if he believed that a nuclear war could break out – today, every day, something happens that yesterday seemed completely unthinkable; no, he does not believe, does not want to believe. At the end of the press conference, Sergey Lavrov remembered the Istanbul and Astana charters:
– We agreed and signed that no one will strengthen their security at the expense of the security of others! This was the pinnacle of diplomacy! – Sergei Lavrov exclaimed in his hearts. – We still want diplomacy! We want to end this war!
We just can’t.