OPINION | Mariupol, will peace win in Ukraine?

Publisher’s note: Jorge Dávila Miguel has a degree in Journalism since 1973 and has maintained a continuous career in his profession to date. He has postgraduate degrees in Social Information Sciences and Social Media, as well as postgraduate studies in International Relations, Political Economy and Latin American History. Dávila Miguel is a columnist for El Nuevo Herald on the McClatchy network, and a political analyst and columnist for CNN en Español. The comments expressed in this column belong exclusively to the author. See more at cnne.com/opinion

(CNN Spanish) — The bloody progress of the Russian offensive in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol has left the Azovstal steel company, now surrounded by the invading army, as the only redoubt of resistance. The Russian military command has offered twice, on April 17 and 19, the opportunity to evacuate the nearly 1,000 civilians concentrated there and spare the lives of the thousands of soldiers wounded and besieged there, with the obvious condition that to lay down their arms. However, Kyiv opposed the surrender. A bold and heroic gesture, but one that would prolong the bombing and fighting in the huge steel mill, with 10 square kilometers of surface and kilometers of underground passages designed to withstand a nuclear explosion.

However, Putin said he decided not to raid the Ukrainians in Azovstal, but to keep them besieged until “they can once again be offered the chance to surrender in exchange for their lives and ‘dignified treatment.'” (Shortly before publishing this note Ukrainian authorities said the hospital inside the plant may have been attacked (CNN has not independently confirmed the attack).

Taking Mariupol, an important objective since the beginning of the invasion, would constitute a military and political victory for Putin, as it would open a land corridor between Russia and the Crimean peninsula while depriving Ukraine of an important port and precious industrial resources. In addition, Azovstal is defended by the Azov Regiment, described by Russia as neo-Nazi and the main argument –Moscow’s pretext– to justify its invasion of a sovereign country.

ANALYSIS | A far-right battalion plays a key role in the Ukrainian resistance. His neo-Nazi ties give Putin arguments

But the Azovstal siege may define the course of the war in Ukraine.

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, president of Turkey, a member of NATO, but who did not join the Western sanctions on the Russian Federation, is in an arduous diplomatic task between the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, and Vladimir Putin, to reach to a peaceful evacuation of the civilians encircled in the depths of Azovstal. Who could oppose that?

Let us remember that, on March 29, the Ukrainian and Russian delegations held a dialogue in Istanbul, and when they left they reported on the key points discussed there: Ukraine’s neutrality and 15 years to resolve the situation in Crimea. A meeting between Zelensky and Putin was already in sight, and the end of the war.

What happened a month before that date was relevant: Zelensky asked, one by one, 27 European leaders if Ukraine would ever belong to the Alliance… but got no response, prompting the fighting president to declare publicly: “None (of the presidents) responded to me, they are all afraid… but we are not afraid, neither of fighting Russia, nor of dialoguing with Russia.” And that was what the Ukrainian president did, dialogue through his representatives, with the representatives of Russia, that March 29.

But it happened that on April 1, just three days after the meeting in Istanbul, the Bucha massacre was discovered and the talks between Kyiv and Moscow suffered a sudden cold, damaging what could have been a peaceful solution to the conflict.

Now the case of threatened civilians in Azovstal could bring a new chance for peace. And that Erdogan knows. He has acted as an intermediary, this past weekend, between Putin and Zelensky. On Monday, he met in Ankara with António Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations, who traveled to Moscow on Monday to meet with Putin. He received Putin’s agreement for Red Cross and UN personnel to participate in the evacuations. Guterres traveled to Kyiv for talks with Zelensky. It is obvious that we are facing a serious attempt to resume the peace dialogue. Erdogan has already publicly proposed a summit between Putin and Zelensky in Turkey.

Russian missiles fall in Kyiv during the visit of UN Secretary General António Guterres

There are, however, interests opposed to reviving that possibility. Some prefer to have the beneficial symbolic fight of David against Goliath. Although not all European countries agree with the consequences of keeping the conflict alive, and prefer a negotiated solution. French President Emanuel Macron said he could not subscribe to Joe Biden’s accusation of genocide against Putin. Macron stressed that increasing the intensity of words will not bring peace.

There is mixed behavior in NATO regarding the Ukraine war and the US leadership position. to countries like Germany, Italy and Turkey, which take a slightly more moderate approach,” Jeremy Shapiro, director of research at the European Council on Foreign Relations, told The Washington Post. Recall that the newly elected for the fourth time Victor Orban, president of Hungary, met personally with Putin at the beginning of the conflict, and does not even allow weapons for Ukraine to pass through his territory.

Hungary will pay in rubles for Russian gas to avoid shortages. What other countries depend on its resources?

Not all agreements are happy when it comes to confronting the reality of war. Moscow warned Washington on Monday not to send more weapons to Ukraine because it is adding fuel to the fire. Sanctions harm all European countries and the conflict may escalate. We will see if another Bucha appears on Erdogan’s path of peace. Or if the road gets complicated in the end for all of us with a “succulent” nuclear war.

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