Kremlin feigning interest in peace talks with Ukraine, – ISW

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Western media have repeatedly reported that Vladimir Putin is allegedly interested in a negotiated ceasefire in Ukraine, although Kremlin rhetoric and Russian military actions suggest the opposite.

That’s according to the U.S.-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW), Ukrinform reports.

Reuters reported on May 24 that four Russian sources who currently work or have worked with Putin stated that Putin is ready to negotiate a ceasefire that recognizes the current frontlines and that Putin is prepared to present the current amount of occupied Ukrainian territory as a “Russian military victory” to the Russian public. Western media have already reported similar interest from Putin in a negotiated ceasefire or settlement.

“The Kremlin routinely feigns interest in meaningful negotiations as part of a longstanding information operation that aims to persuade the West to make concessions on Ukrainian territorial integrity and sovereignty. […] ISW cannot determine the veracity of the Russian sources’ claims about Putin’s intentions, and these private anonymous statements contrast sharply with Russian official public rhetoric and action,” analysts said.

Putin and the Kremlin have notably intensified their expansionist rhetoric about Ukraine since December 2023 and have increasingly indicated that Russia intends to conquer more territory in Ukraine and is committed to destroying Ukrainian statehood and identity completely. Russian military operations in recent months suggest that the Kremlin is more interested in achieving its long-term goal of maximalist victory in Ukraine than in any settlement, the ISW said.

The Kremlin may not unreasonably expect that a frozen frontline will make support for Ukraine less urgent and salient for the West and allow Russia to outpace Ukraine in preparing for a resumption of hostilities.

“Russia’s military intervention in Crimea and the Donbas in 2014 violated numerous Russian international commitments to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, including Russia’s recognition of Ukraine as an independent state in 1991 and the 1994 Budapest Memorandum in which Russia specifically committed not to undermine Ukraine’s sovereignty or territorial integrity. There is no reason to assess that the Kremlin will respect any new agreement obliging Russia to not violate Ukrainian sovereignty or territorial integrity,” the report said.

The Kremlin will continue to feign interest in negotiations at critical moments in the war to influence Western decision-making on support for Ukraine and to continue efforts to extract preemptive concessions from the West. Western reporting on Putin’s alleged interest in negotiations in Winter 2023-2024 coincided with prolonged debates in the U.S. about security assistance for Ukraine, and the Kremlin may have feigned interest in a ceasefire at this time to convince Western policymakers to pressure Ukraine to negotiate from a weakened position and agree to what would have very likely been a settlement that heavily favored Russia.

Putin said in a speech on June 14 that Russia would end the war in Ukraine if Kyiv agreed to drop its NATO ambitions and hand over the entirety of four regions claimed by Moscow.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called these proposals an ultimatum that cannot be trusted.

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