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15 Jan, 2024 20:28

Zelensky rejected favorable peace deal with Russia – ex-aide

Ukraine now faces ten to 15 years of war, Aleksey Arestovich has said
Zelensky rejected favorable peace deal with Russia – ex-aide

Ukraine had the chance to make peace at the 2022 Istanbul talks but something or someone changed President Vladimir Zelensky’s mind, according to an interview with his former aide, Aleksey Arestovich, published on Monday.

Freddie Sayers, the editor in chief of the British outlet UnHerd, interviewed Arestovich almost a year after Ukraine’s top spin doctor left Zelensky’s service. He has since moved to the US, saying that Kiev wants him arrested on politically trumped-up charges.

“I was a member of the Istanbul process, and it was the most profitable agreement we could have done,” Arestovich told Sayers. The Ukrainian delegation “opened the champagne bottle” when they came back to Kiev, believing the agreement was a done deal, he added.

The protocols were “90% prepared” for a direct meeting between Zelensky and Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to Arestovich, when Ukrainian president called off the talks.

His rejection of a deal has been widely attributed to the ‘Bucha massacre’, which Ukraine accused Russia of, but Arestovich said he did not know that for a fact. Something “absolutely” changed Zelensky’s mind and “historians will have to find an answer to what happened,” Arestovich said.

“A lot of people say it was the Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who came to Kiev and put a stop to this negotiation with Russia. I don’t know exactly if that is true or false. He came to Kiev, but nobody knows what they spoke about except, I think, Zelensky and Boris Johnson himself,” he told UnHerd.

Johnson’s role in scuttling the Istanbul peace talks was reported as early as May 2022 by the outlet Ukrainska Pravda. According to the outlet, he came to Kiev with “two simple messages,” that Russian President Vladimir Putin was “a war criminal” who should not be negotiated with, and that even if Ukraine was ready to sign some kind of agreement with Russia, the West was not.

David Arakhamia, the leader of Zelensky’s party in the Ukrainian parliament, brought up the visit in a November 2023 interview, paraphrasing Johnson’s message as telling the Ukrainians “let’s just continue fighting.”

The former British PM finally commented on the matter last week, saying he merely told Zelensky the UK would support Ukraine “a thousand percent” and that any potential agreement with Russia would be “pretty sordid.” He insisted he did not “order” anyone to do anything, however.

According to Arestovich, the conflict has now evolved beyond Russia and Ukraine, pitting the collective West against the ‘Global South’.

“We have to negotiate for an all-new security system for Europe, taking into account all sides of this problem,” he told UnHerd, adding that NATO would need to discuss with Russia “what it would take to guarantee not to use military force in Europe to decide political questions.”

“I should perhaps add that I am absolutely pessimistic that this will happen. I think we face ten or 15 years of war in Europe,” Arestovich said.

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