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Potential terms of a peace agreement with Russia - Ihor Petrenko

In an article for El País, United Ukraine's expert Ihor Petrenko examined the current situation in Russia's war against Ukraine and analyzed the negotiating positions of both parties.

Over the past few months, the Russian Federation has been actively spreading the message that its ready for peace talks with Ukraine, highlighting Kyiv's reluctance to return to the negotiating process. Parallel to the suggested peace talks, Russian missiles continue to kill Ukrainians and destroy critical infrastructure in Ukraine, which serves as Russia's answer to the prospect of peace negotiations. Instead, Ukraine has never refused and does not decline the negotiations process with Russia. President Zelensky is ready for peace talks in a public format, not behind the scenes, and offers his formula for peace.

Almost ten months have passed since Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, and Russia's undeclared war against Ukraine has been ongoing for over eight years. It started with the annexation of Crimea, the war in Donbas, the Minsk agreements, which Russia has never fulfilled, and numerous rounds of negotiations (only Volodymyr Zelensky held 88 in 2.5 years of office). It resulted in a full-scale invasion, missile terror, torture and murder of Ukrainians, energy genocide, robbery, and destruction of cities.

Russia is akin to a serial killer who wasn't stopped in time, committing more murders to quench his ever-increasing thirst for blood. Russia felt this thirst in 2008 when it started a war against sovereign Georgia with almost no consequences. At the time, the world preferred not to see the attack on Georgia and thus gave tacit consent to Moscow's further actions. I am convinced that similar condescension and flirting with Russia led to today's war and the economic consequences for almost all countries. However, even the most intelligent maniac makes mistakes; the feeling of impunity is relaxing. For Russia, such a mistake was the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, which Putin's dictatorial regime could not assess beyond the prism of its propaganda.

Striving to take control of Kyiv in three days and initially achieving some successes, the Kremlin found itself in a difficult position in the tenth month of the war. Ukrainian troops have liberated over 78,000 km² of Ukrainian territory (for comparison, this is roughly equal to the area of the Czech Republic), which Russia has seized since the beginning of the full-scale invasion. Russia controls another 70,000 km². In addition, Ukraine liberated the only regional center that Russia managed to capture after February 24, 2022 - Kherson, which it illegally included, like Crimea, as a subject of the federation together with other territories. In addition to Kherson, Ukraine liberated several areas that are part of the Russian Federation under bogus Russian law. In total, up to 120,000 km² remain under Russian occupation, constituting about 20% of Ukrainian territory.

In the first months of the war, the Armed Forces of Ukraine crushed the offensive of Russia's professional army. After that, Putin announced mobilization, which failed miserably. There is currently a covert mobilization in Russia, but the quality of the soldiers who join the army is low. The level of their training, equipment, and morale is even lower. Increasingly, mobilized people ask themselves what they are fighting for in Ukraine. In addition, with the help of weapons provided by partners, the Armed Forces of Ukraine destroyed the material and technical support of the enemy, and now the Russian military will not only have to fight in winter but also against the cold, with the lack of provisions and ammunition. Hence, Russia is in a difficult situation on the battlefield. It's worth adding that missile terror and the destruction of the energy and civil infrastructure of Ukraine do not have the desired effect for Russia. Despite power outages, Ukrainians are united in their desire to liberate all their territories. In addition, Ukraine has already received and continues to receive new air defense systems from its partners. All this prompts Putin to mention negotiations. However, he has no desire for lasting peace but rather to take a tactical pause to regroup troops, replenish supplies, and build up military power for a new round of aggression.

And what is Ukraine's position regarding a potential peace agreement with Russia? Ukraine has never refused and does not decline the negotiations process with Russia. Ukraine is ready for negotiations in an open format, not behind the scenes. At the same time, Russia has never offered negotiations, only issued an ultimatum albeit being unable to dictate its terms. Russia is desperate for peace talks when the situation is bad for the Russian army on the battlefield. In turn, Ukraine will not agree to any negotiations, agreements, or compromises to end the war until it frees its territory from Russian occupation.

Ukraine's position is outlined in Zelensky's peace formula, which includes immediate cessation of hostilities, the withdrawal of all Russian troops from the internationally recognized territory of Ukraine, restoration of territorial integrity of Ukraine, compensation for damages, punishment of all war criminals, and provision of effective security guarantees. All these points are logical and well-founded, and most importantly, they will allow us to avoid repeated Russian aggression. The Russian side will consider the truce as a victory and will continue to declare its expansionist policy. Therefore, the ceasefire will mean only the next stage of the war after a certain time. It would cost even more than the current support of Ukraine by the West. If Russia even planned aggression against Japan, everyone can assess its aggressiveness.

Ukraine demands fair conditions for ending the Russian-Ukrainian war based on international law and the UN Charter, restoring the territorial integrity of Ukraine and the world order. Instead, Russia continues to disregard the principles of territorial integrity of sovereign states, human rights, and freedoms generally accepted by the international community. Russia must accept the international community's conditions for ensuring radiation, nuclear, food, and energy security. In particular, Russia should immediately withdraw its military from the territory of the Zaporizhia nuclear plant and stop blackmailing the world with a radiation disaster. Russia must pay compensation for its aggression against Ukraine, as confirmed by the relevant resolution of the UN General Assembly ES-11/L.6 of 14.11.22, and the Russian leadership and war criminals must be held accountable for the atrocities they committed and continue to commit.

Is Russia ready for this? Probably not. Russia is neither politically nor psychologically ready for negotiations and the complete withdrawal of its troops from Ukraine. But its readiness will increase after further liberation of Ukrainian territories by the Armed Forces. The transformation of captured territories into alleged subjects of the Russian Federation means nothing, and Russia will simply forbid publicly mentioning their names, as it has already done with Kherson.

The most thankless thing in political science is to make predictions, but I will briefly share my vision. I think winter will be extremely difficult for the Russian army, and Ukraine will continue the counteroffensive, liberating new territories. Until the liberation of the territories captured by Russia following February 24, 2022, we should not expect fruitful negotiations. Unless, of course, Russia takes a rational position and does start an independent withdrawal of its troops, which can theoretically save it from a direct military defeat on the territory of Ukraine. However, dictators with imperial ambitions think irrationally, being captive to their propaganda. This scenario is unlikely for now. But whether the removal of Putin from power will be able to stop the war is an open question and requires a separate detailed analysis, since those who call this war "Putin's war" may be underestimating the imperial ambitions of the Russian people themselves.

Source: El País

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