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11 Sep, 2023 13:58

Blinken contradicts Ukraine on peace negotiations

Washington’s top diplomat believes Kiev would engage in talks, despite outlawing negotiations with Moscow
Blinken contradicts Ukraine on peace negotiations

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has claimed that the Ukrainian government will agree to peace talks with Russia if Moscow offers to negotiate first. Ukrainian leaders have argued otherwise, however, and insist that peace “needs to be won on the battlefield.”

“Thus far, we see no indication that [Russian President] Vladimir Putin has any interest in meaningful diplomacy,” Blinken told ABC News on Sunday. “If he does, I think the Ukrainians will be the first to engage, and we’ll be right behind them,” he added.

Blinken and other top American officials have long insisted that the Ukrainian government will decide when to seek peace with Russia, and that the US will continue to supply Kiev with weapons until that time comes. Ukraine agreed in principle to a Turkish-mediated peace deal in April 2022, but walked away from the agreement after a visit to Kiev by then-British prime minister Boris Johnson.

Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky has since issued a decree forbidding any negotiations with Putin’s government, as well as repeatedly vowing to take back the territories of Donetsk, Lugansk, Kherson, Zaporozhye, and Crimea – the latter of which voted to join Russia in 2014 – by force.

Retaking this land, however, has proven costly for Kiev. More than three months into its long-awaited summer counteroffensive, the Ukrainian military has lost more than 66,000 troops and 7,600 pieces of heavy weaponry, according to the latest figures from the Russian Defense Ministry. In exchange, Kiev’s forces have only managed to reclaim a handful of villages near Zaporozhye, while Russia controlled more land last month than it did at the beginning of the counteroffensive, according to the Washington Post.

Nevertheless, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba declared last week that the conflict “cannot be ended by simply bringing belligerent parties to the table for negotiations.”

“It needs to be won on the battlefield for Russia to become serious about negotiating peace," Kuleba added.

Russia maintains that it is open to a diplomatic solution to the conflict, but that any peace deal would have to take into account the “new territorial reality” – that Donetsk, Lugansk, Kherson, Zaporozhye, and Crimea will never be ceded back to Ukraine. Furthermore, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said negotiations would be held “not with Zelensky, who is a puppet in the hands of the West, but directly with his masters.” 

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