Putin demands more land to end Ukraine war

President Vladimir Putin said Russia will only end its war in Ukraine if Kyiv surrenders the entirety of four regions claimed by Moscow and abandons its bid to join NATO – terms Kyiv immediately dismissed as a “complete sham” and “offensive to common sense.”

Speaking Friday ahead of a peace conference in Switzerland to which Russia has not been invited, Putin set out his conditions for a “final end” to the war in more granular detail than at any previous time since he launched the full-scale invasion of Ukraine more than two years ago.

As well as withdrawing from the four occupied regions in eastern and southern Ukraine, Putin said Ukraine must demilitarize and that Western countries must lift their sanctions on Russia, which have damaged but not crippled its economy.

While these conditions are more maximalist than those Putin has hinted at before, they represent Russia’s failure to achieve its original war aims, when Moscow believed it could capture Kyiv in days and the rest of Ukraine in weeks. Nearly 28 months later, Russia occupies around a fifth of Ukrainian territory, including the Crimean peninsula it annexed a decade ago.

Ukrainian and certain Western officials have repeatedly warned that Putin intends to settle for nothing less than Kyiv’s total defeat, and that any truce or peace talks are merely a guise to allow Russia’s troops to regroup and launch a fresh and fiercer offensive in the future.

But, in comments to the foreign ministry, Putin said Russia’s conditions for peace talks are “simple,” beginning with the total withdrawal of Ukraine’s troops from the entire territory of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions. Moscow only controls these regions partially, but claimed the whole of each region was part of Russia’s territory in 2022.

Putin stressed that Ukraine should surrender not just the territory on the Russian side of the frontline, which splices through each of these regions, but “the entire territory of these regions.”

“As soon as they declare in Kyiv that they are ready for such a decision and begin the real withdrawal of troops from these regions – and also officially notify about the abandonment of plans to join NATO – our side will immediately, at the same minute, make the order to cease fire and begin negotiations,” he said.

Putin promised to “guarantee the unhindered and safe withdrawal of Ukrainian units and formations,” and said Moscow acknowledges its role in global stability. He asked that his terms for ending the war would need to be cemented in international agreements.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky attends the G7 summit in Italy, June 13, 2024.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky attends the G7 summit in Italy, June 13, 2024. Louisa Gouliamaki/Reuters

But Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said his country “does not trust” Putin’s “ultimatum,” which he said did not significantly differ from previous offers he has made before.

Speaking Friday from the Group of Seven summit in Italy, Zelensky drew parallels between Putin’s tactics and those used by Nazi leader Adolf Hitler to conquer swaths of Europe in the 1930s and 40s.

“He talks about regions of our country, and he says he will not stop,” Zelensky told CNN affiliate Sky Tg24. “It’s the same thing Hitler did, when he said ‘give me a part of Czechoslovakia and that’s the end of it.’ You can’t trust it,” Zelensky said, referring to Hitler’s annexation of the Sudetenland and Western countries’ failed policy of appeasement.

“That is why we must not trust these messages, because Putin follows the same course,” Zelensky warned.

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak called on Kyiv’s allies to “get rid of illusions” and to stop taking Russia’s proposals seriously, describing Putin’s terms as “offensive to common sense.”

“There is no novelty in this, no real peace proposals and no desire to end the war. But there is a desire not to pay for this war and to continue it in new formats. It’s all a complete sham,” Podolyak said.

Putin’s speech comes on the eve of the Swiss peace conference, in which nearly 100 countries and organizations will take part. He dismissed the conference as “another ploy to divert everyone’s attention.”

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