Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said late Monday that he is open to talks with Russia but only under conditions that are non-starters for negotiations with Moscow.
According to The Associated Press, Zelensky’s conditions include Russia withdrawing from the territory it has captured, Russia paying compensation for war damages, and the prosecution of alleged Russian war crimes.
Missing from Zelensky’s demands was his previous stance that talks could only happen if Vladimir Putin was no longer Russia’s leader. Zelensky previously signed a decree ruling out peace talks with Russia as long as Putin is president, and media reports said that the US was privately encouraging Ukraine to drop this position for public relations purposes.
Sources told POLITICO on Tuesday that Zelensky changed his position after being nudged by the US for several days. The effort included in-person talks between Zelensky and US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan that took place in Kyiv last week.
A senior Biden administration official told POLITICO that even though they were pushing Zelensky to drop the position, they don’t actually want peace talks between Russia and Ukraine. “That doesn’t mean they need to go to the negotiating table right now. We don’t even think right now is the right time based on what Russia is doing,” the official said.
The US was concerned that it looked bad for Ukraine to take such a firm stance against negotiations while Russian officials, including Putin, continue to say they’re open to talks. The US still expects the war to last for years and is setting up a command to oversee arming Ukraine based in Germany that is expected to be up and running in early 2023.