Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is fighting to save a stagnant peace process that is expected to end simultaneous clashes with Russian-backed forces in the country’s far east.
Moscow is huge Military build up There were partial troops last month on Ukraine’s eastern border and in occupied Crimea LiftingKurt Volker, former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine Wrote Last week. Russia’s outrageous “Ukraine looks weak, the West has apparently moved away from a show of military force and [Vladimir] Putin has strengthened his position in the region.
Zelensky, elected in 2019 with a promise to end the war in the Donbass region, has several options to break the stalemate, he failed to defraud Kiev’s Western allies behind further economic sanctions against Russia and was reluctant to engage with Washington’s new diplomat.
The former comedian finds it difficult to bring Putin to the peace talks, even with Western leaders who support Kiev.
Zelensky has been forced to admit that the Russian president probably does not want peace in Donbass, where 14,000 fighters and civilians have died – unless Kiev agrees to politically unacceptable terms from a Ukrainian leader.
A senior Ukrainian official has admitted that it took Zelensky two years to “face reality.”
“Ukraine is committed to peace and ready to do everything in its power to achieve such peace,” said one of the president’s advisers. “However, both sides want peace and Moscow’s recent belligerent behavior has raised significant doubts about its motives,” the adviser added.
Zelensky Said The Financial Times last week said it wanted the United States and the United Kingdom to help Germany, France, Ukraine and Russia join the so-called Normandy group to help break up the conflict.
He also called for changes to the Minsk Peace Accords, negotiated by the Normandy Four, which did not take effect, with Kiev and Moscow at loggerheads on terms and continuity. However, the Kremlin has refused to reconsider the agreement. Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in response to Zelensky’s appeal to the FT last week that “in reality there is no way to change it without stopping it.”
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Meanwhile, Paris and Berlin fear that moving away from the Minsk agreement could provoke Moscow. Repealing it would make it harder for EU sanctions against Russia to be upheld.
Zelensky’s chief of staff, Andrei Yarmak, admitted in a television interview last week that Kiev does not have a chosen diplomatic strategy.
“We need to continue working in all directions and in all formats,” he said. “Because in the end we don’t know which format will bring peace to our land, when we can return all our territories, all our people and end the war.”
In his first year as president, Zelensky won a quick victory after talks in Paris with Putin, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. He persuaded Russia and its separatist proxies to exchange hundreds of prisoners of war for control of two broken territories in Donbass, Ukraine’s industrial hub. However, the process has since stalled and a new ceasefire was agreed in July 2020.
Kiev has insisted that there is no need for permanent autonomy in the breakaway regions, fearing that such a status would thwart its aspirations to join the EU and NATO. Moscow and its Donbass Proxy “Republic” have refused to take control of Kiev over the region and over the border before the election, as a move to reunite with Ukraine.
Zelensky called for one-on-one talks with Putin last month, which he has so far avoided during the dispute. Putin rejected the first-line interview at Zelensky’s request and offered to discuss bilateral relations – not the Denbas war – if Zelensky came to Moscow. Putin added that Zelensky should discuss the Donbass issue with the leaders of the Russian-backed breakaway republic, which the Ukrainian president has refused to do.
“Putin has shown that he is not the least bit interested in the realization of some interest in Zelensky, just reach a peace agreement,” said Danielo Lubkivsky, director of the Kiev Security Forum. “Only combined international pressure can force Putin to release this captive Ukrainian territory.”
Zelensky hopes that US President Joe Biden, France or Germany, as well as a larger role in bilateral talks with Putin, could help push Moscow toward a compromise.
“Bringing Biden is strategically important. The U.S. should return to the table to restore Ukraine’s territorial integrity on the two tracks of Crimea and Donbass – because it’s a matter of global security,” Lubkiewski added.
It is unclear how strongly Washington will be committed to a new peace initiative. Although Biden is a friend of Ukraine, his administration includes Obama-era officials who six years ago suspected deep involvement in the United States. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken will visit Kiev on May 5.
How the United States and other Western powers could help Ukraine regain its territorial integrity was a “worrying issue,” George Kent, a senior State Department official, told the Kiev Defense Forum last week. The challenge, he said, was “trying to change Russia’s costly calculus and its behavior.”
One way for the U.S. to increase pressure on Moscow is to increase U.S. sanctions on dollar-deprived Russian debt holders, Kent said.
But changing Russia’s behavior is not easy. And no one could take a winning solution. ”
Sarah Lane, a Kiev-based researcher at the Royal United Services Institute, said it was even important to show Western solidarity with Kiev. Many capitalists see the Ukraine-Russia conflict as “part of their Russia policy” rather than some bilateral dispute.
“This is important for Zelensky’s position,” he added.
Maria Jolkina, an analyst at the Kiev-based Democratic Initiatives Foundation, said that “if Russia finds itself in deep financial and technical barriers, the only chance Russia can regain control of these territories under Putin is on acceptable terms for Ukraine.”
“But the problem for the West is that no one will impose such sanctions, fearing that it will only increase Russia’s hostility,” he added.
Some Ukrainian analysts and officials have resigned in the long, frozen conflict, saying Kiev’s best strategy is to restructure its economy and modernize its state. A Ukrainian official described it as a “West German strategy”: to isolate Putin after the new leadership came to power in Russia and to focus on peace, but from a position of relative power.