As a year dominated by Russia’s war on Ukraine draws to a close, Vladimir Putin has made a point of suggesting he is open to peace talks despite evidence to the contrary, with comments that have been roundly dismissed by Kyiv and the West as a ruse at a time when the prospect of negotiations in the near future appears extremely remote.
Days after saying he wanted an end to his war, the Russian President on Sunday repeated his claim that he was ready to “negotiate with everyone involved in this process about acceptable solutions,” state news agency TASS reported.
His remark came amid Russia’s tireless bombardment of Ukraine’s energy grid with rockets and missiles, which has sought to wipe out the country’s power as it enters its cold winter months, and follows a 10-month invasion in which Putin has repeatedly attempted to denigrate Ukraine’s sovereignty.
His comments were rejected by Ukraine and the US and are unlikely to be seen as more than a sideshow by the West.
That doesn’t mean Ukraine is not open to peace talks. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told the Associated Press on Monday that Kyiv wants UN-brokered discussions to start by February, but only after Russia faces a war crimes tribunal.
But the simple calculus remains unchanged; a conflict that many experts thought would be over within days or weeks has instead become a grueling war that Ukraine may be able to win, so any deal that diminishes the country’s borders or represents some form of victory for Putin would be unacceptable to Kyiv.
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