Reuters: Putin ready to stop war in Ukraine if current battle lines are recognized, expressed frustration...

For this report, Reuters spoke to a total of five people who work or have worked with Putin at a senior level in the political and business world.

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Putin, Photo: Reuters
Putin, Photo: Reuters
Disclaimer: The translations are mostly done through AI translator and might not be 100% accurate.
Ažurirano: 24.05.2024. 11:47h

Russian President Vladimir Putin is ready to end the war in Ukraine with an agreed ceasefire that recognizes the current battle lines, four Russian sources told Reuters, saying he was ready to fight if Kiev and the West did not respond.

Three sources familiar with the talks in Putin's circle said the Russian leader expressed frustration to a small group of advisers over what he sees as Western-backed attempts to stall the talks and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's decision to shut down the talks.

"Putin can fight as long as necessary, but Putin is also ready for a ceasefire - to freeze the war," said another of the four, a senior Russian source who has worked with Putin and has knowledge of the highest-level Kremlin talks.

He, like the others quoted in this story, spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter.

For this report, Reuters spoke to a total of five people who work or have worked with Putin at a senior level in the political and business world.

The fifth source did not comment on the freezing of the war on the current front lines.

Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov, in response to a request for comment, said the Kremlin chief had repeatedly made it clear that Russia was open to dialogue to achieve its goals, saying the country did not want "perpetual war."

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Defense of Ukraine did not respond to questions.

Last week's appointment of economist Andrei Belousov as Russia's defense minister was seen by some Western military and political analysts as putting Russia's economy on a permanent war footing to win the long-running conflict, according to Reuters.

It follows continued battlefield pressure and territorial advances by Russia in recent weeks.

But sources said Putin, re-elected in March to a new six-year term, would prefer to use Russia's current momentum to put the war behind him.

They did not directly comment on the new defense minister.

Based on their knowledge of senior Kremlin talks, two sources said Putin believes the gains in the war so far are enough to sell victory to the Russian people.

Europe's biggest land conflict since World War II cost tens of thousands of lives on both sides and led to harsh Western sanctions on the Russian economy.

Three sources said Putin understood that any dramatic new progress would require another nationwide mobilization, which he did not want, and one source, who knows the Russian president, said his popularity had declined since the first mobilization in September 2022.

The national conscription frightened a section of the population in Russia, causing hundreds of thousands of men in the draft to leave the country.

Polls have shown that Putin's popularity has dropped by several points.

Peskov said that Russia has no need for mobilization and is instead recruiting volunteers into the armed forces.

The prospect of a ceasefire, or even peace talks, seems remote at the moment.

Zelensky has repeatedly said that peace under Putin's terms is not the beginning. He has vowed to reclaim lost territory, including Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014.

He signed a decree in 2022 formally declaring any talks with Putin "impossible".

One of the sources predicted that an agreement cannot be reached while Zelensky is in power, unless Russia bypasses him and reaches an agreement with Washington.

But US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, speaking in Kiev last Sunday, told reporters he did not believe Putin was interested in serious negotiations.

Conversations in Switzerland

Ukraine is preparing for talks hosted by Switzerland next month, which aim to unite international opinion on how to end the war.

The negotiations were held at the initiative of Zelensky, who said that Putin should not attend.

Switzerland did not invite Russia. Moscow has said the talks are not credible without it.

Ukraine and Switzerland want Russia's allies, including China, to attend.

Speaking in China on May 17, Putin said Ukraine could use the Swiss talks to get a wider group of countries to support Zelensky's demand for a full Russian withdrawal, which Putin said would be an imposed condition rather than serious peace talks.

The Swiss foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

"We are ready for discussion. We have never refused," Putin said in China.

The Kremlin says it does not comment on the progress of what it calls its special military operation in Ukraine, but has repeatedly said Moscow is open to the idea of ​​talks based on "new realities on the ground."

In response to questions for this story, a US State Department spokesman said any peace initiative must respect "the territorial integrity of Ukraine, within its internationally recognized borders," and described Russia as the only obstacle to peace in Ukraine.

"The Kremlin has yet to show any significant interest in ending its war, quite the opposite," the spokesman said.

In the past, Kiev has dismissed Russia's alleged willingness to talk as an attempt to shift the blame for the war.

Kiev says Putin, whose team has repeatedly denied planning war before invading Ukraine in 2022, cannot be trusted to honor any deal.

Both Russia and Ukraine have also said they fear the other side will use any ceasefire to rearm.

Kiev and its Western backers are counting on a $61 billion US aid package and additional European military aid to reverse what Zelensky told Reuters this Sunday as "one of the most difficult moments" of full-scale war.

In addition to ammunition shortages following US delays in approving the package, Ukraine has admitted it is struggling to recruit enough troops and last month lowered the age limit for men who can be drafted from 27 to 25.


Putin's insistence is that the territories that Russia has conquered for now are non-negotiable, all sources suggest.

They also suggest that Putin's insistence that any battlefield gains be locked into the deal is non-negotiable.

Putin, however, would be willing to settle for the land he has now and freeze the conflict on the current front lines, four sources said.

"Putin will say that we won, that NATO attacked us and that we preserved our sovereignty, that we have a land corridor to Crimea, which is true," said one of them, giving his own analysis.

Freezing the conflict as it stands would leave Russia in possession of significant parts of the four Ukrainian regions it formally incorporated into Russia in September 2022, but without full control over any of them.

Such an arrangement would be inconsistent with the goals Moscow set for itself at the time, when it said four Ukrainian regions - Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporozhye and Kherson - now fully belong to it.

Peskov said that there can be no talk of returning the four regions that are now permanently part of Russia.

Another factor influencing the Kremlin chief's view that the war should end is that the longer it drags on, the more hardened veterans return to Russia, dissatisfied with post-war job and income prospects, potentially creating tensions in society, said one of sources, who cooperated with Putin.

"Russia will push further"

In February, three Russian sources told Reuters that the United States had rejected Putin's previous proposal for a ceasefire to freeze the war.

In the absence of a ceasefire, Putin wants to seize as much territory as possible to increase pressure on Ukraine, while seeking to seize unexpected opportunities to gain more, the three sources said.

Russian forces control about 18% of Ukraine and this month launched an attack on the northeastern region of Kharkiv.

Putin is counting on Russia's large population compared to Ukraine's to maintain superior manpower even without mobilization, supported by unusually generous pay packages for those who sign up.

"Russia will move on," said a source who worked with Putin.

"Putin will slowly conquer territories until Zelensky offers to stop," the person said, adding that the Russian leader had expressed a view to aides that the West would not provide enough weapons, which undermined Ukraine's morale.

American and European leaders have said they will stand by Ukraine until its security sovereignty is guaranteed.

NATO countries and allies say they are trying to speed up arms shipments.

"Russia could end the war at any time by withdrawing its forces from Ukraine, rather than continuing to launch brutal attacks on Ukrainian cities, ports and people every day," the State Department said in response to a question about the arms supply.

All five sources said Putin told advisers he had no plans on NATO territory, echoing his public comments on the matter.

The two sources cited Russia's concern over the growing risk of escalation with the West, including nuclear escalation, over the conflict in Ukraine.

The State Department said the United States had not adjusted its nuclear posture, nor had it seen any sign that Russia was preparing to use nuclear weapons.

"We continue to monitor the strategic environment and remain ready," the spokesman said.

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