Zelensky is ready to negotiate with Putin if Kyiv recaptures all territory
Ukrainian officials have adopted a hard-line stance towards possible dialogue
But senior government source told the Mail they could sit down with Putin again
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky is ready to negotiate with Vladimir Putin if Kyiv’s forces can recapture all its territory seized during the eight-month war.
Publicly, Ukrainian officials have adopted a hard-line, hawkish stance towards possible dialogue, with Mr Zelensky going as far to sign a decree on September 30 ruling out talks with the Kremlin despot.
But a senior government source has told the Mail they could sit down with Putin again if the armed forces’ ongoing bid to retake the country’s stolen lands continues to reap rewards.
Ukraine’s armed forces have succeeded in winning back large swathes of large in the northeast Kharkiv region and are closing in on the southern city of Kherson after Russia announced its withdrawal.
Volodymyr Zelensky is ready to negotiate with Vladimir Putin if Kyiv’s forces can recapture all its territory seized during the eight-month war
The country’s population is overwhelming opposed to any talks with Russia. Opinion polls by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology have regularly found that 87 per cent of Ukrainians are vehemently against any territorial concessions
‘The idea is to push the Russians back to the so-called borders of February 23rd then we can negotiate,’ said the official, who declined to be identified.
‘But if you write this, we’ll deny it. There’s no politician in Ukraine who will consider saying this,’ they added.
The country’s population is overwhelming opposed to any talks with Russia.
Opinion polls by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology have regularly found that 87 per cent of Ukrainians are vehemently against any territorial concessions.
Yet the startling admission comes amid a renewed push by the Biden administration to scope out possible diplomatic solutions to the war.
It indicates that Mr Zelensky may not have full Western backing for taking back Crimea and the Donbas by force, two parts of Ukraine seized by Russia in 2014.
The senior official, however, refused to rule out pushing on into Crimea and the Donbas if Putin fails to back down and come to the table.
‘Taking a big city like Donetsk would be a bloodbath,’ the top aide said.
There are also fears that Putin could lash out and use a tactical nuclear weapon,
It comes as NBC News quoted US and Western officials as saying this winter could be the time to restart diplomacy between both sides.
The US broadcaster said senior sources amongst Ukraine’s allies doubted its military’s ability to remove all Russian troops from occupied areas.
‘In the winter, everything slows down,’ NBC quoted one Western official with direct knowledge of military operations as saying. ‘The potential for talks, we would like to see that happening.’
The official stressed that Russia’s ambassador to the United Kingdom last week has spoken about the potential for negotiations as possible ‘messaging’ towards a diplomatic solution.
Zelensky says Ukrainian forces have liberated 41 settlements
Jake Sullivan, US president Joe Biden’s national security adviser, made a surprise visit to Kyiv last week for talks with the Ukrainian president to see whether there were possible ways to end the war.
‘He was testing the waters a bit,’ a person with knowledge of the talks said.
Ukraine and Russia held as many as six rounds of peace talks up until the end of last March that ended without a settlement.
Ukrainian officials broke off the talks after the emergence of evidence of horrific war crimes committed by Russian troops against the country’s civilians.
On Monday in his regular night-time address, the Ukrainian leader laid out his conditions for ‘genuine peace talks’ aimed at ending the war that has left thousands of civilians dead, forced millions to flee abroad and wreaked economic havoc in Ukraine and abroad.
They included prosecuting Russian ‘war criminals’, demanding reparations from Moscow and restoring Ukraine’s ‘territorial integrity.’
But he made no mention of his refusal to sit down with Putin, although Mr Zelensky’s decree banning talks with the Kremlin strongman remains on the Ukrainian presidency’s website.
Maria Zakharova, the Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman, said Moscow was ready to hold talks with Kyiv that would ‘take into account developing realities.’