Ukraine’s President Zelenskyy Sets Conditions for ‘Genuine’ Peace Talks With Russia

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says he is open to talks with Russia if the negotiations are focused on compensations, safeguarding territorial integrity in Ukraine, and bringing perpetrators of war crimes to justice.

Before his address at a global climate summit in Egypt, Zelenskyy said, “Anyone who treats seriously the climate agenda should just as seriously treat the necessity of immediately stopping Russian aggression, resuming our territorial integrity, and forcing Russia into genuine peace talks.”

Zelenskyy’s statement comes after the United States, a key backer of Ukraine in its defense against Russia’s unprovoked invasion, has urged the nation to be willing to negotiate with the Kremlin to avoid alienation from international opinion.

“One more time: restoration of territorial integrity, respect for the U.N. charter, compensation for all material losses caused by the war, punishment for every war criminal, and guarantees that this does not happen again,” said Zelenskyy. “Those are completely understandable conditions.”

American officials have said Ukraine is responsible for defining acceptable terms for settlement. Many officials in the West are skeptical that Vladimir Putin, president of Russia, will be open to any settlement requiring Russian withdrawal from occupied areas of Ukraine — a crucial command for Kyiv.

Putin may be unwilling to negotiate

President Putin recently said that large swaths of Ukraine’s south and east belong to Russia. Meanwhile, Kyiv has emphasized it was unwilling to negotiate with Russia until a different leader is in power. President Putin has insisted that Russia’s demand for territory is not negotiable, leaving little room for peace talks.

“We’ve always made it clear our readiness for such talks,” said Andrei Rudenko, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, in comments on the state news media agency, RIA. “From our side, there are no preliminary conditions whatsoever, except the main condition — for Ukraine to show goodwill.”

After recent success on the battlefield, Ukraine is demanding all occupied areas be returned under its control in any peace deal — including parts of the eastern Donbas area and Crimea that Russia seized in 2014.
Financial and continuing Western support is critical to Ukraine’s ability to advance. However, many fear that a decrease in aid may destroy Ukraine’s hopes of retaking occupied areas, making it approach negotiations with a weak hand.

Evidence of alleged Russian war crimes in Ukraine, which Russia has denied, has strengthened Ukraine’s resolve and insistence on a complete Russian withdrawal from its territory.

However, the toll on the global economy and signs of a splintering political consensus among Western nations raises uncertainty about how long Europe and the United States will continue to back Ukraine’s position.

Jake Sullivan, the U.S. national security adviser, has been having confidential conversations with Putin’s top aide to avoid a further widening of the war while continuing to warn Moscow against using nuclear weapons in the fight against Ukraine, confirmed American and allied officials.

Ukraine continues to call for more arms deliveries from the West to protect its cities against Russian drone-and-missile attacks and recapture territories that are occupied.