Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has no legitimacy after the end of his five-year term, and this would pose a legal obstacle if Russia and Ukraine hold peace talks.

With Ukraine under martial law in the third year of Russia’s full-scale invasion, Zelenskiy faced no elections despite the end of his five-year term this week — something he and Ukraine’s allies consider the right wartime decision.

Putin is ready to halt the war in Ukraine with a negotiated ceasefire that recognizes current battlefield lines, Reuters reported on Friday, citing four Russian sources, but is willing to continue fighting if Kyiv and the West do not respond.

In a televised press conference during a visit to Belarus, Putin said Zelenskiy’s status was problematic.

“But who to negotiate with? This is not an idle question… Of course we realize that the legitimacy of the current head of state is over,” he said.

Ukrainian officials reject any notion that Zelenskiy lacks wartime legitimacy.

Ruslan Stefanchuk, speaker of Ukraine’s parliament, said this week that anyone who questioned the president’s legitimacy was an “enemy of Ukraine” spreading false information.

Putin said the West would use a war conference, organized by Switzerland and scheduled for next month, to endorse Zelenskiy’s legitimacy, but that these would be “public relations steps” without legal significance.

He said peace must be achieved through common sense, not ultimatums. It should be based on draft documents drawn up between the two sides in the first weeks of the war and “current realities on the ground” — a reference to the fact that Russia controls almost 20% of Ukraine.

“If it comes to that, we will, of course, need to understand who we should and can deal with, in order to reach the signing of legally binding documents. And then we must be completely sure that we are dealing with legitimate (Ukrainian) authorities,” Putin said.

Putin won a new six-year term in March in a tightly controlled election that the Russian opposition called a sham. Two anti-war candidates were barred from running for technical reasons, and all of Russia’s leading opposition figures are in prison or abroad. The best-known, Alexei Navalny, died in February in an Arctic penal colony.

Putin’s comments are likely to be interpreted by Ukraine and its Western allies as further evidence that he has no real intention of entering into peace talks, despite frequently declaring his willingness to negotiate.


Zelenskiy, in his evening video address, made no reference to the Russian president’s remarks but said Putin was determined to sabotage next month’s peace summit.

“He is afraid of what the summit can produce. The world is capable of forcing Russia to make peace and comply with international security standards,” Zelenskiy said.

“Russia has nothing to oppose the world majority. The peace summit is a formula that will no longer allow Putin to lie.”

Russia was not invited to the summit in Switzerland and dismissed the event as insignificant without its participation.

Zelenskiy has repeatedly stated that peace on Putin’s terms is unacceptable. He promised to retake lost territories, including Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014. In 2022, he signed a decree that formally declared any negotiations with Putin “impossible.”

The head of the Main Intelligence Directorate of Ukraine’s Defense Ministry, Kyrylo Budanov, warned in February that Russia would pursue a campaign aimed at undermining the legitimacy of both Zelenskiy and Ukraine’s political system.

Via Reuters.


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