May 28, 2023

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What lies behind Russia’s willingness to negotiate. Putin is said to be preparing a “large-scale offensive” in early 2023

Vladimir Putin wants to buy time to prepare a “large-scale offensive” in Ukraine in early 2023, and is lobbying Western leaders to convince Kiev to accept a temporary ceasefire, writes the independent Russian website Meduza.

Putin would be willing to negotiate a temporary peace agreement with Ukraine, which would include a possible withdrawal of Russian troops from Kherson, but maintaining Russian control in Donbas. About Crimea “he doesn’t even want to discuss”, Meduza sources say.

But with this temporary ceasefire Putin has no intention of ending the war. It is a broader strategy to buy time to train mobilized recruits and restock so they can launch a “large-scale offensive” in February or March 2023.

In recent weeks, the Kremlin has repeatedly signaled that Russia is open to negotiations with Ukraine or the West. On October 14, for example, the director of the Foreign Intelligence Service, Sergei Narishkin, said that negotiations were possible, but only “under certain conditions” – without specifying the conditions.

And a week earlier, on October 6, the president of the Federation Council, Valentina Matvienko, proposed that negotiations for a “peaceful resolution” begin “this very day” – but only on “the conditions offered by Russia”.

According to Meduza, Putin is considering resuming negotiations that stalled in the spring, but wants Russia to maintain control over the occupied Donbas territories – and “doesn’t even want to discuss Crimea.”

Two sources close to the Kremlin and one close to the government told Meduza that Putin’s positions have not changed, but Russian authorities have developed a new “tactical option”: instead of persuading Ukraine to accept a peace treaty, the Kremlin would seek a temporary ceasefire. Russian leaders believe this could be arranged through negotiations between Russian and Ukrainian troops – without the involvement of the two countries’ presidents.

The same sources also said that Russia would be willing to withdraw its troops from at least part of the occupied section of Ukraine’s Kherson region.

“It is very difficult to hold the Kherson at the moment, and the withdrawal of troops from the region could be done as a gesture of goodwill and a step forward towards Ukraine,” said a source close to the Kremlin.

The Kremlin also tried to “influence Western leaders” and Turkish President Erdogan to “persuade” Ukraine to resume negotiations with Russia.

Meduza also writes that Russia uses a “simple argument” in discussions with Western leaders: “Civilian casualties must be avoided.” These talks came amid the bombing of Ukrainian cities that Russia launched after the October 8 Crimean bridge explosion and Ukraine’s successful counter-offensive in September.

But Vladimir Putin has no plans to end the war and hopes to use the possible ceasefire to prepare for a new offensive. The Russian president believes that a truce would allow the Russian army to train mobilized soldiers and replenish its stocks.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to comment on the information obtained by Meduza.

According to the Kremlin’s plan, the “new large-scale offensive” could begin around February or March 2023. This would mirror the strategy that the Ukrainian military used when it spent several months training mobilized soldiers before leading a successful counteroffensive in Kharkiv and Kherson regions.

On the other hand, Kiev’s official position on any negotiations with Moscow remains unchanged. “We will be ready for negotiations with Russia, but not with Putin, but with his replacement,” a source from Volodymyr Zelensky’s administration told Meduza.

Ukraine has long distrusted any statements – and “goodwill gestures” – from Russia, the source quoted by the independent[Russianpublicationalsosaid:”HekeepslyingPutinHetalksabouthowhereadsfornegotiationsthenlaunchesmissilestrikesonciviliansIdon’tthinktherewillbeanyceasefireuntilourterritoriesareliberated”[rusă:„ElcontinuăsămintăPutinVorbeștedesprecumciteștepentrunegocieriapoilanseazălovituricuracheteasupracivililorNucredcăvaexistavreoîncetareafoculuipânăcândteritoriilenoastrenuvorfieliberate”

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