An advisor to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky reaffirmed on Monday Ukraine’s position that it wouldn’t negotiate with Russia as long as Vladimir Putin is president.
Mykhailo Podolyak wrote on Twitter that Ukraine has never “refused to negotiate” and that its terms for negotiations were a full Russian withdrawal. “Is Putin ready? Obviously not. Therefore, we are constructive in our assessment: we will talk with the next leader,” he said.
Podolyak’s comments came after The Washington Post reported that the US was privately encouraging Ukraine to soften its public stance on negotiations. The report said the idea wasn’t for Ukraine to actually pursue diplomacy with Russia but to ease the concerns of some of Kyiv’s Western backers, who are worried about the war dragging on for years.
At the beginning of October, Zelensky signed a decree formalizing his government’s position against negotiations with Putin after Russia annexed territory it controls in Ukraine. CNN reported on Monday that National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan discussed the issue directly with Zelensky during a visit to Kyiv last week.
While Ukraine has hardened its stance on negotiations, Putin and other Russian officials in recent weeks have stressed that they’re open to talks with both Ukraine and the West. The US is reportedly concerned that it looks bad for Ukraine not to be open to negotiations while Russia is.
But Podolyak’s comments suggest that Ukraine doesn’t plan on changing its position on talks. Zelensky and other Ukrainian officials have repeatedly said that their goal is to drive Russia out of all the territory it controls in Ukraine as well as Crimea.