Zelensky changes stance on talks with Russia

The Ukrainian leader has claimed that restoration of 2022 status quo would be enough to kick off negotiations with Moscow

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 so-called peace formula, which has been dismissed by the Kremlin as absurd.

Zelensky banned all negotiations with the current leadership in Moscow back in 2022, after four former Ukrainian regions overwhelmingly voted to join Russia. Since then, he has been rallying Western support for his 10-point ultimatum, which includes the full withdrawal of Russian troops and a return to Ukraine’s 1991 borders, including Crimea, holding Moscow accountable and forced to pay reparations, among other conditions.

However, in an interview with CBS this week, Zelensky suggested there was no need to recapture the territory “exclusively by military means,” claiming that the 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.

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Zelensky changes stance on talks with Russia
Putin outlines terms for peace talks with Ukraine

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

Despite the failure of Ukraine’s counteroffensive last year and recent gains made by Russian forces along the frontline, 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 the Swiss-hosted peace summit, a date for 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.”

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Talks between Russian and Ukrainian representatives in Istanbul, Türkiye, in April 2022.
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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. President 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, meanwhile, has stressed that no amount of foreign aid will change the course of the conflict.

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