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Russia may have just given Ukraine conditions to end the war

A senior Kremlin official suggested Saturday that Russia could agree to end the war in Ukraine if a key condition is met.

At a press conference at the United Nations General Assembly, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov indicated that Russia would recognize Ukraine’s borders before Moscow’s invasion if Kiev agreed not to join a military alliance.

Since Russian President Vladimir Putin launched war on February 24, 2022, he and Kremlin officials have cited various justifications for the conflict. But one of the most frequently cited reasons is Putin’s opposition to NATO expansion to his country’s borders, and he is said to be particularly opposed to Ukraine joining the military bloc.

Lavrov told reporters that in 1991, Moscow “recognized Ukraine’s sovereignty on the basis of the Declaration of Independence, which it adopted after leaving the USSR.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) delivers a speech to the Presidium of the State Council September 21, 2023 in Veliky Novgorod, Russia. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during a press conference September 6, 2023 in Kyiv, Ukraine. A Kremlin official suggested that Russia might be willing to end the war in Ukraine if kyiv agreed not to join a military alliance.
Photos by Yan Dobronosov/Global Images Ukraine/Getty Images

“One of our main goals was for Ukraine to be a non-aligned country and not to enter into any military alliances,” Lavrov said. “Under these conditions, we support the territorial integrity of this State.”

Mark N. Katz, professor at the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University, said: News week that “the 1990 Declaration of State Sovereignty effectively proclaims Ukraine as a “consistently neutral state that does not participate in military blocs.”

“Lavrov’s statement therefore implies that Moscow would recognize Ukraine’s 1990 borders if Ukraine renounced its NATO membership.”

News week contacted the Russian Foreign Ministry by email for comment.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has been pushing for his country to join NATO since the start of the war, and his efforts have won the support of key NATO officials. But even if Zelensky agreed to abandon his NATO bid in order to end the war, Ukraine would likely still face a sticking point over the Crimea issue.

Putin invaded and annexed Crimea in 2014, and Zelensky has pledged to reclaim the peninsula as an integral part of his nation. After the breakup of the Soviet Union, Crimea was declared part of Ukraine, leading some to speculate that Lavrov may have implied that Russia might be willing to abandon the region.

Katz said that although Crimea was a province of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1990, he felt that “Lavrov’s statement may not be definitive and that there may be additional ‘clarifications’ to be made.” this subject, who would not be so generous towards Ukraine.

“Nevertheless, if Moscow simply wants to end the war, it may be able to present preventing Ukraine from joining NATO as a victory, even if it means giving up Russian claims to territory occupied Ukrainian.

“But I’m not sure Putin could do it, because it would raise the question of whether the enormous losses suffered by Russian forces in this conflict were worth such a deal, assuming that Ukraine and NATO governments accept it.”

David Silbey, associate professor of history at Cornell and director of teaching and learning at Cornell Washington, said: News week that he found Lavrov’s statement and its connection to Crimea “ambiguous, which is interesting in itself.”

“It would have been easy for Lavrov to make a clear distinction, but he didn’t, and he wouldn’t do something like that without Putin’s permission. They must both know that it would immediately raise questions about Crimea.”

Even if Russia is not willing to return Crimea to Ukraine, Lavrov’s comments could be interpreted to mean that Putin could give up his claims to the oblasts of Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia. A year ago, Putin announced that Ukraine’s four regions were annexed to Russia, a move the international community called illegitimate.

“As for the four territories, I think so, it suggests that the Russians are ready to return them,” Silbey said.


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