As the battle for Ukraine turns into a bloody, mile-by-mile fight in numbing cold, Ukrainian and Russian officials have insisted that they are willing to discuss making peace. But it is increasingly clear that both sides’ demands even to start talks are flatly unacceptable to the other, leading US and European officials to conclude that serious discussions on ending the war are unlikely in the near future.
There have been no peace talks between Ukraine and Russia since the early weeks of the conflict. This week, Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, detailed a proposal for a “peace” summit by the end of February but told Associated Press that Kyiv would negotiate with Moscow only if Russia first faced a war-crimes tribunal.
Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov responded that Kyiv would have to accept Moscow’s demands — including giving up the four Ukrainian regions that Moscow claimed to have annexed in September—or else “the Russian army will deal with this issue. ”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday that “there cannot be a peace plan for Ukraine that does not take into account today’s realities with Russian territory,” including the four annexed regions, according to the Interfax news agency.
Stella Ghervas, a professor of Russian history at Newcastle University in Britain, said that “the Ukrainian proposal offers a glimpse at Ukraine’s vision of how the war with Russia could one day end. ” But, she said, “Lavrov’s reaction is not very promising,and it’s an indicator that a peace negotiation could be months and months away. ”
The hard-line positions suggest that both sides believe they have more to gain militarily. Ukraine holds the battlefield momentum, having retaken much of the land that Russia captured early in the war, although Moscow’s forces still occupy large chunks of the east and south. And Russia is pressing its own advantage, readying more troops and launching aerial attacks on infrastructure.
Last month, addressing G20 nations, President Zelenskyy of Ukraine presented a wide-ranging 10-point peace plan that called for the full withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukrainian territory, including Crimea and parts of the eastern area known as the Donbas that Russian forces seized beginning in 2014.
President Putin of Russia said over the weekend that he was prepared to negotiate over “acceptable outcomes,” without specifying what those might be, while making clear that he had no intention of ending his attacks. Western officials have dismissed Putin’s periodic offers to negotiate as empty gestures.





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