Kyiv rejects Russian president’s demands to control four Ukrainian regions.

Vladimir Putin declared that Russia would immediately cease fire and begin negotiations to end the war in Ukraine in exchange for control of four front-line Ukrainian regions, a proposal that was promptly rejected by Kyiv.

The Russian president’s conditions include areas that Moscow never occupied during its two-year invasion or from which it later withdrew, as well as a commitment that Ukraine will never join NATO. Putin also seeks the lifting of Western sanctions imposed in 2022 in response to his large-scale invasion.

Ukraine said Putin’s proposal amounted to capitulation and would leave the country vulnerable to future attacks.

“New territorial realities must be recognized,” Putin said in a speech to foreign policy officials on Friday. “All these main conditions must be established through fundamental international agreements. Naturally, this involves lifting all Western sanctions against Russia.”

Under Putin’s terms, Russia would gain full control of Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia. Putin claimed to have annexed the regions, despite only partially occupying them in autumn 2022.

Fighting has been raging in all four regions in recent months, with Russian forces slowly gaining the initiative on the battlefield following the failure of a Ukrainian counteroffensive last year and a six-month delay in U.S. military assistance that allowed Moscow to make new advances.

Putin demanded that Ukraine commit to no longer seeking NATO membership, a goal enshrined in the Ukrainian constitution and confirmed by the US-led military alliance, albeit without a concrete timeline.

The Russian president also called on Kyiv to never develop nuclear weapons and pursue their “demilitarization” and “denazification,” two vague goals that Russia set at the start of the invasion.

Putin’s demands represent the most specific conditions he has set for a possible end to the war since ordering the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. He has made clear that he would present a maximalist position in any peace talks and continue fighting indefinitely. if they were not met.

“Today we are making yet another specific and real peace offering. If Kyiv and Western capitals refuse it as they did before, then that is their problem at the end of the day — their political and moral responsibility for the continued bloodshed,” Putin said.

“Obviously, the facts on the ground at the front line will continue to change, not in favor of the Kyiv regime, and the conditions for starting negotiations will be different.”

Putin’s demands suggest the Kremlin is confident in the invasion’s progress, said Alexander Gabuev, director of the Carnegie Russia Eurasia Center in Berlin. “This sets the threshold for what the Russians want,” he said, adding that while Moscow could likely make some concessions, “the key demand here is no military cooperation between Ukraine and the West.”

Moscow withdrew from some of the areas in southeastern Ukraine it said it annexed after an unrecognized referendum in 2022, including Kherson, the only provincial capital it captured during the initial phase of its large-scale invasion.

Russia never controlled the city of Zaporizhzhia, which had a pre-war population of more than 700,000 and has since become home to many refugees from Russian-controlled areas.

Oleksandr Lytvynenko, secretary of Ukraine’s national security and defense council, told the Financial Times that Putin’s statements were a “demonstration that he does not want to negotiate” and that the Russian leader’s terms were unacceptable to Kyiv.

Lytvynenko said Putin was speaking out now because he “fears” that a Kyiv-led peace summit, which begins in Switzerland on Saturday, will be successful.

Leaders and representatives from more than 90 countries will gather in the Swiss resort of Bürgenstock, where President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is expected to appeal to nations that have been indifferent to his country’s plight.

“Our position is very clear: the peace formula,” Lytvynenko said, referring to Zelenskyy’s 10-point plan to end the war, which includes the complete withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukrainian territory.

Russia was not invited to the peace summit, but Andriy Yermak, Zelenskyy’s chief of staff, told the FT that Kyiv could invite a Moscow representative to a second peace summit in the future.

Gabuev said Putin’s comments would likely help his partners strengthen their positions in future negotiations — especially China, which has a competing Kremlin-aligned peace plan. Chinese officials refused to attend the summit in Switzerland because Putin was not invited.

The Russian president’s allies would likely describe the Swiss summit as “ill-prepared talks based on unrealistic expectations,” leading them to offer their own “framework for bringing the parties together,” Gabuev said.

Via Financial Times.


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