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30 Mar, 2024 02:43

Zelensky changes stance on talks with Russia

The Ukrainian leader has said that a return to the 2022 status quo would be enough to kick off negotiations with Moscow
Zelensky changes stance on talks with Russia

President Vladimir Zelensky has indicated that a return to Ukraine’s 1991 borders is no longer a precondition for holding peace talks with Moscow, even as he continues to push forward with his own ‘peace formula’, which has been dismissed by the Kremlin as absurd.

Zelensky banned all negotiations with the current leadership in Moscow in 2022, after four former Ukrainian regions voted overwhelmingly to join Russia. Since then, he has been rallying Western support for his ten-point formula, which includes the full withdrawal of Russian troops and a return to Ukraine’s 1991 borders, including Crimea, as well as forcing Moscow to pay reparations, among other conditions.

However, in an interview with CBS this week, Zelensky suggested there is no need to recapture the territory “exclusively by military means,” saying Ukrainian forces should at least restore the 2022 status quo.

“We will not have to de-occupy all of our territories exclusively by military means… I am sure when he [President Vladimir Putin] loses what he has occupied since 2022, he will fully lose the confidence even of those countries which are still in doubt whether they should support Ukraine or not,” Zelensky said.

The Kremlin has stressed that it remains open to meaningful talks and has blamed the lack of a diplomatic breakthrough on the Ukrainian authorities, who refuse to accept the “reality on the ground.”

Despite the failure of Ukraine’s counteroffensive last year and recent gains made by Russian forces along the front line, Zelensky claimed that once Russia suffers battlefield setbacks, Putin will “lose the power within his country” and will be forced to seek dialogue.

“And when he will be ready for the dialogue, undoubtedly the international conditions should be the liberation of our territories, the territorial integrity of Ukraine,” Zelensky added.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba suggested on Friday that Kiev could engage in diplomacy with Moscow following a Swiss-hosted peace summit, the date of which is still to be announced. However, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Kiev is contradicting itself, and that Moscow will not accept a set of rules “developed by someone else.”

The last meaningful negotiations between Moscow and Kiev were held in Istanbul in the spring of 2022, but broke down, with each side accusing the other of making unrealistic demands. Putin said the Ukrainian delegation had initially agreed with some of Moscow’s terms, but then abruptly reneged on the deal – allegedly after then-UK PM Boris Johnson advised Kiev to reject a truce and “continue fighting,” promising full Western support.

Ukraine’s Western backers insist that a peace settlement can only be achieved on Kiev’s terms and have vowed to continue weapons deliveries for “as long as it takes.” Russia has stressed that no amount of foreign aid will change the course of the conflict.