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Kiev launched a massive counteroffensive in June 2023, hoping to break through fortified Russian positions in Zaporozhye, Kherson and the Donbass and to reach the Crimean Peninsula. In November, Ukraine’s top general admitted that there would be no “deep and beautiful breakthrough,” and said the conflict had reached a “stalemate.”
Ukraine seriously bungled its summer counteroffensive and may face the loss of its statehood altogether if things continue in this direction, Russian President Vladimir Putin has said.
“If what is taking place right now continues, and it is now completely obvious that not only has their counteroffensive failed, but the initiative is in the hands of the Russian Armed Forces, if this continues, Ukraine’s statehood may face an irreparable and very serious blow,” Putin said at a meeting with heads of municipalities of Russia on Tuesday.
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Blasting authorities in Kiev for rejecting peace talks with Russia early on during the crisis, Putin also lambasted the Zelensky government’s latest attempt to force Moscow to the negotiating table on prohibitive terms. “Zelensky’s formula for peace is a set of prohibitive demands for negotiations,” he said, referring to the formula, which calls for a series of one-sided Russian concessions, including giving up Crimea and the Donbass, ‘reparations’ payable to Kiev and a war crimes tribunal targeting Russian officials and the military.
“The so-called ‘peace formula’ that’s being talked about in the West and in Ukraine is a continuation of the decree of the Ukrainian president banning negotiations with Russia,” Putin said.
“As for the negotiating process, it’s an attempt to encourage us to abandon the territorial gains we’ve achieved over the past year-and-a-half. But this is impossible. Everyone understands that this is impossible,” Putin said.
Recalling the Russia-Ukraine peace talks held in the spring of 2022 in Belarus and Turkiye in the first weeks of the special military operation, Putin emphasized that it was the Ukrainian side that had refused to negotiate, while the Russian side expressed willingness to reach a deal.
“A day later they threw all the agreements into the trash, and now they are saying publicly (including the head of the Ukrainian negotiating group) that ‘yes, we were ready, but we missed the chance, because then-prime minister of Britain Mr. Johnson came and persuaded us not to implement these agreements.’ Fools, are they not? They’re admitting directly that if they had gone for it, everything could have been ended a long time ago, a year and a half ago,” Putin said.
The negotiator Putin was referring to was David Arakhamia, the Zelensky ‘Servant of the People’ Party faction leader in the Rada, who recently admitted that Johnson had personally sabotaged the Russia-Ukraine peace deal. Johnson has denied doing so.
Putin suggested that the Kiev regime’s decision to stop negotiations on the instructions of foreign powers is an indication that Moscow is dealing with “people who are not independent.”
Commenting on the recent spate of Ukrainian attacks against civilian areas in Russia, Putin suggested that they were meant to show to Kiev’s NATO patrons that the Ukrainian military still has some ability to respond to the campaign of Russian strikes against military infrastructure. “But instead of solving military tasks, they are acting in this barbaric way, striking peaceful settlements using indiscriminate weapons. Multiple launch rocket systems are simply used to hit wide areas,” Putin said. There is no military rationale for such attacks, the president emphasized.
Delving into the roots of the current crisis, Putin said that unfortunately, Ukraine after 1991 and the collapse of the Soviet Union became a hotbed of nationalism, with these forces eventually overpowering forces in favor of continued close cooperation with Russia.
“It was obvious after the collapse of the Soviet Union that we would eventually come to this. Of course, I think that at the time of the collapse [its initiators] probably thought that the fundamental ties between Ukraine and Russia would be stronger than the opportunistic considerations of the nationalist-minded parts of society,” Putin said. But ultimately, “these nationalist elements turned out to be more aggressive and began to push through their agenda. That’s how it all led to today’s situation.”