Zelensky outlines model for talks with Russia
Zelensky outlines model for talks with Russia

Intermediaries could help reach a lasting settlement with Moscow, the Ukrainian leader said

Kiev does not rule out future peace talks with Moscow but they can only be held through intermediaries, Ukrainian leader Vladimir Zelensky told the Philadelphia Inquirer on Sunday. He suggested that the format used to broker the 2022 Black Sea grain deal could be useful for this purpose. 

Kiev has previously refused to accept Russia’s terms as a basis of talks and accused Moscow of being incapable of good-faith negotiations. In late 2022, Zelensky even issued a decree, proclaiming the “impossibility” of holding talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.  

Moscow, meanwhile, has maintained that it is ready to restart negotiations but only if Kiev renounces claims on the territories that have been acquired by Russia during the conflict. In autumn 2022, four former Ukrainian territories – the two breakaway Donbass republics and the regions of Kherson and Zaporozhye – formally joined Russia following a series of referendums. Ukraine has never recognized the voting results and continues to lay claim to these regions, as well as Crimea, which joined Russia following a similar referendum in 2014. 

In his interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer, Zelensky said that Ukraine “can find a model” for a potential settlement with Russia. He pointed to the deal brokered two years ago by Türkiye and the UN that allowed the establishment of a corridor for agricultural exports from Ukrainian ports. 

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Ukraine ‘wants peace as soon as possible’ – Zelensky aide

According to Zelensky, Ankara and the UN had signed separate agreements with Moscow and Kiev. “It worked,” he said, adding that the grain corridor then existed “long enough.” 

Moscow and Kiev were close to reaching another grain deal in March, but Ukrainian negotiators abruptly walked away after two months of talks, according to Reuters. 

Agreements on “territorial integrity, energy and freedom of navigation” could be struck between Moscow and Kiev in the same format, Zelensky stated. He suggested that other countries could be invited to mediate.”No one should say that it is … just Europe and the US,” he said, adding that nations from Asia, Africa, and South America should participate as well and help prepare the documents that would be presented to Moscow and Kiev. 

“So far, there is only this model,” Zelensky said. He stressed, however, that the final agreement should “suit” Kiev and be based on Ukraine’s terms.

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A Ukrainian BMP-2 infantry fighting vehicle.
Ukraine does not want to ‘prolong war’ – Zelensky

Zelensky has long sought to promote his own 10-point “peace formula,” most recently during the summit in Switzerland on June 15-16, which Russia did not attend. Moscow has flatly rejected Zelensky’s terms, insisting that the status of its newly acquired territories is non-negotiable. Putin further demanded in June that Kiev withdraw all troops from the parts of the four Russian regions it currently controls. 

According to Putin, Ukraine must also renounce its plan to join NATO and become a neutral country, as well as limit the size of its army. 

Despite rejecting Russia’s terms, Kiev has recently been signaling its willingness to end the fighting. In June, the deputy head of Vladimir Zelensky’s office, Igor Zhovkva, said that Ukraine wanted “peace as soon as possible.” Zelensky himself said last week that Kiev did not want to “prolong the war” and make it “last for years.”

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