Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Wednesday that he has received “signals” from Western partners that Russian President Vladimir Putin desires direct negotiations with Ukraine.
The Ukrainian leader said that he proposed public talks with Russia in response. “I received signals that Putin wants direct negotiations. I received such signals. I proposed a public form, because Russia is waging a public war,” he told reporters, according to a Google translation of an Interfax Ukraine report.
Zelensky also confirmed that he met with CIA Director William Burns in Kyiv on Tuesday as Russia was firing missiles at the city. Burns visited Ukraine following talks in Turkey with his Russian counterpart, SVR chief Sergei Naryshkin.
“Yesterday, Burns sat in the bomb shelter. And then we talked with him. We discussed all the issues important to us. We know each other. He is on the side of Ukraine,” Zelensky said.
A US official told The Washington Post that in his meeting with Zelensky, Burns “reinforced the US commitment to provide support to Ukraine in its fight against Russian aggression.”
The US insisted that Burns’ talks with Naryshkin in Turkey were focused on warning against using nuclear weapons and were not a negotiation on Ukraine. But there have been signs that the US is looking to open up diplomacy between Russia and Ukraine, including comments from Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley.
Milley said last week that this winter could provide an opportunity for diplomacy between the warring sides that should be “seized,” although media reports say his view is not shared by other high-level Biden administration officials. Milley reaffirmed his stance on Wednesday that winter would be a good time for Ukraine to consider talks with Russia but also said the US will support Kyiv “as long as it takes” if they choose to keep fighting.