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“It's a trap”: Journalist Portnykov explains Russia's likely moves if peace talks happen

26 May, 2024 Sunday
12:55

Journalist Vitaliy Portnykov argues that Russia's so-called truce initiative won't end the war. Instead, he believes Russia will find a way to restart the "special military operation"

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He shared his opinions with Espreso TV.

"What his spokesman Dmitry Peskov is saying is no different from what Moscow said in February 2022: we have goals for the special operation and we can achieve them politically. What are these goals? There are constituent entities of the Russian Federation that Ukraine should stop claiming, and we just need to be clear about what this means. This means that Ukraine should at least de facto, if not de jure, recognize Crimea, the city of Sevastopol, Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia regions as part of the Russian Federation, and Ukrainian troops should be withdrawn from the territory they control," he stated.

Portnykov thinks Moscow aims to raise the stakes, knowing Ukraine won't abandon its territories, just as Russia won't leave the occupied ones.

"If they propose this, we will say: we won't leave. They will reply: we won't leave either. You don't want to leave our territories? Fine, we won't leave our federation subjects either. These are negotiations on Russia's terms."

He emphasizes this is exactly what the Russian trap looks like.

"The second issue is demilitarization. Can they demilitarize us? No, but they can leave us without security guarantees, and the West isn't providing those either. This results in a classic freeze. Putin suggests that, if he wishes, he can freeze the conflict. We've raised the stakes, lowered them, and frozen the line. But the next point is legitimacy. If Russia doesn't recognize President Zelenskyy as legitimate and says Ukraine should resolve it internally, it means that after any armistice agreement, they could claim, 'We apologize, but we don't know who we signed with,'" Portnykov explains.

He speculates that if, after a conditional truce, new presidential elections occur and the winner questions the legitimacy of Volodymyr Zelenskyy after May 20, 2024, the Russians might change their approach.

"They will undermine our agreement: we'll start a special operation now. Or worse, they'll say the legitimate president now acknowledges the agreement. The new Ukrainian president might say, 'I didn't sign it, why should I recognize it?' Imagine their entire campaign based on the idea that the agreement was wrong and doesn't guarantee our security. Zelenskyy's successor, if this war ends in a freeze without security guarantees, will be even more populist than the 2019 winner. Putin gets this; he's setting up an 'open chance' scenario for himself: a pause, and in his view, the Ukrainians will give him an opportunity to start a new process," the journalist concluded.

  • On May 2, the Swiss Foreign Ministry stated that Russia should join the Peace Summit, saying "the peace process without Russia is unthinkable." However, Moscow wasn't invited this year. 
  • Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov argues that the Peace Summit on ending the war in Ukraine will be ineffective without Russia's participation. 
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