Zelensky refuses peace talks
Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky, explaining the reasons behind his country’s refusal to negotiate with Moscow, compared Russia to an insatiable “cachalot” who would not understand the language of diplomacy.
In a Friday interview with the Wall Street Journal, Zelensky responded to the recent remarks of his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, who said earlier this week that Russia and Ukraine could have ended their conflict in March if Kiev had not withdrawn from negotiations.
Calling this statement “total delirium,” the Ukrainian leader said that, prior to Moscow’s offensive, he had been trying to talk to Putin for a long time but he couldn’t be bothered to take a phone call.
“He came here without talking, killed people, displaced 12 million, and now says Ukraine doesn’t want to negotiate. They just murder people, destroy cities, enter them, and then say: ‘Let’s negotiate’. With whom can they talk? With rocks? They are covered in blood, and this blood is impossible to wash off. We will not let them wash it off,” Zelensky said.
Now, five months into the military conflict, Ukrainians believe that all of the country’s territories must be “liberated” before any negotiations can resume, according to him. Zelensky stressed that he would prefer to conduct ‘de-occupation’ in a non-military manner but, in his opinion, Russia would not understand anything until it got “smashed in the face.”
Moreover, he believes there is another reason conducting talks no longer makes sense. Russia will never stop seizing Ukrainian territories, he claimed.
“It is a cachalot that has swallowed two regions and now says: Freeze the conflict. Then it will rest and, in two or three years, it will seize two more regions and say again: Freeze the conflict. And it will keep going further and further. One hundred percent,” the Ukrainian leader said.
Meanwhile, Putin said that back in March, Moscow and Kiev had “actually reached an agreement, the only thing left to do was to sign it.” “In order to create these conditions, our troops withdrew from central Ukraine, from Kiev, but the Kiev authorities refused to implement these agreements” and have no desire to do so even now, the Russian president added.
Moscow and Kiev started peace talks four days into the Russian military offensive in Ukraine in late February. The sides held several rounds in person in Belarus and then continued the talks via video link. In late March, delegations from Russia and Ukraine met once again, in Istanbul. Since then, however, the talks have stalled completely.
Russia sent troops into Ukraine on February 24, citing Kiev’s failure to implement the Minsk agreements, designed to give the regions of Donetsk and Lugansk special status within the Ukrainian state. The protocols, brokered by Germany and France, were first signed in 2014. Former Ukrainian president Pyotr Poroshenko has since admitted that Kiev’s main goal was to use the ceasefire to buy time and “create powerful armed forces.”
In February 2022, the Kremlin recognized the Donbass republics as independent states and demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join any Western military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked.