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6 Nov, 2023 07:57

Zelensky admits Ukraine’s backers talking to Russia

The Ukrainian president has admitted that dialogue probably continues at the level of intelligence services or top advisers
Zelensky admits Ukraine’s backers talking to Russia

Ukrainian president Vladimir Zelensky has admitted that countries among his Western backers are communicating with Russia, despite his repeated refusal to engage with Moscow on resolving the ongoing conflict.

In an interview with NBC News on Sunday, Zelensky was asked to address reports that Western officials had approached Kiev to discuss potential peace talks with Russia. The channel also sought to clarify whether he was personally involved in the process.

Zelensky said that while he had heard “a lot of different voices and emotions and without any contradictions and propositions,” he did not have any contact with Russia, adding that all top US officials and policymakers were well aware of his refusal to negotiate with Moscow.

The Ukrainian president also stressed that he had not experienced any overt pressure from the West to sit down with his opponent. However, he conceded that “I’m sure that there are some countries [where] on the level of intelligence or advisers of leaders… maybe they speak with Russia. Maybe they think how to manage everything.”

According to Zelensky, however, talks are impossible until Russian troops leave the territory that Ukraine claims as its own. That statement was in line with the Ukrainian leader’s long-touted peace formula, which also demands the establishment of a tribunal to prosecute Russians for alleged war crimes. Moscow has repeatedly dismissed the proposals as detached from reality.

While the Kremlin maintains it is open to a settlement with Ukraine, Zelensky signed a decree last autumn banning any negotiation with the current leadership after four former Ukrainian regions overwhelmingly voted to join Russia.

However, NBC reported on Saturday that Western officials were holding “delicate” talks with Kiev, probing it on what concessions it might be willing to make to end the conflict.

The discussions are reportedly being driven by fears that hostilities have “reached a stalemate,” and that Ukraine is “running out of forces.” It comes amid Kiev’s ongoing counteroffensive, which has been underway since June, but has failed to gain any substantial ground. According to Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu, Ukraine has lost more than 90,000 troops since the start of the push.