The Ukrainian leader says he would agree to negotiations with Russia if they are conducted in a “public format”
Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky has acknowledged that Kiev’s foreign backers have been speaking to him about the possibility of peace talks with Moscow.
“I had received signals from state leaders, who said: ‘We think [Russian President Vladimir] Putin wants direct negotiations.’ And I said: ‘We will offer a public format [for the talks] because Russia is waging a public war against Ukraine,’” Zelensky told journalists on Wednesday.
“I’m ready to recommend such a format. I’ll discuss with my colleagues how to do it,” he said, adding that he does not want to have any “backstage contact” with Russia.
Recent reports indicate that Washington has been privately pushing Kiev to drop its uncompromising rejection of the peace process with Moscow. Last week, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, suggested that a Ukrainian military victory might be unachievable and that winter could provide an opportunity to begin talks with Russia.
Zelensky also said he does not believe that the US, which has been among Kiev’s main backers amid the conflict with Moscow, was discussing ways to end the fighting behind Ukraine’s back.
“We have an agreement that they – the US – don’t discuss Ukraine without us… Is it really the case? We trust our partners,” he said.
The statement follows talks between the head of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), Sergey Naryshkin, and CIA Director William Burns, which took place in Türkiye earlier this week. Both the Kremlin and the White House confirmed the meeting, with the US side saying that it was aimed at keeping channels of communication open, and that a Ukrainian settlement was not on the agenda.
Zelensky has been sending mixed messages about the possibility of peace talks with Moscow throughout the conflict, even signing a decree in October that officially made it impossible for him to negotiate with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.
In a video address to the G20 on Tuesday, the Ukrainian leader said he was “convinced now is the time when the Russian destructive war must and can be stopped.” Conflict between Moscow and Kiev should conclude “fairly” and on the basis of the UN Charter, Zelensky insisted, stressing that Ukraine “shouldn’t be offered compromises with its sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence” in exchange for peace. He also claimed that Moscow should not be trusted, warning that Russia could use the cessation of hostilities “to grow its forces and launch a new series of terror and global destabilization.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov reacted to the speech by saying that Russia is ready for talks, unlike Ukraine, which puts forward “invariably unrealistic and inadequate” terms for dialogue. According to Lavrov, Zelensky’s address was full of “militant, Russophobic and aggressive rhetoric.”
Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov also said that the speech by the Ukrainian leader “absolutely confirms” the unwillingness of Kiev to look for a settlement of the conflict through negotiations.