Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday said the longer the war in Ukraine drags on, the harder it will be to reach a negotiated solution and warned the West against trying to defeat Russia.
“We aren’t giving up on peace talks but those who decline to talk should know that the longer they do so, the harder it will be to come to an agreement with us,” Putin said, according to the Russian news agency Tass.
Early on in the war, Russia and Ukraine held several rounds of negotiations. Russia asked that Ukraine drop its claim to Crimea and recognize the independence of the breakaway Donbas republics, among other demands.
But since the peace talks have stalled, Russia has gained more territory in the Donbas, as well as in the oblasts of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, giving Ukraine much less leverage. Western leaders have discouraged Ukraine from negotiating with Russia, most notably Boris Johnson, who resigned as British prime minister on Thursday.
According to a report from Ukrainska Pravda, Johnson told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during a visit to Kyiv in April that “even if Ukraine is ready to sign some agreements on guarantees with Putin,” Ukraine’s Western backers were not. The exact details of the Ukrainska Pravda report haven’t been confirmed, but Johnson later told French President Emmanuel Macron that he “urged” the Ukrainians not to negotiate with Russia.
Putin on Thursday also responded to President Biden and other Western leaders that have called for Russia’s defeat in Ukraine. “We are hearing these days that they want to defeat us on the battlefield. What can you say? Let them try,” the Russian leader said.
“We have heard many times that the West wants to fight us to the last Ukrainian. This is a tragedy for the Ukrainian people, but it seems that everything is heading towards this,” Putin added. The Russian leader also signaled that he could expand the war further, warning that “we haven’t started anything yet in earnest.”