Ukraine war: Force Russia to make peace, Zelensky urges West

Image source, Getty Images

  • Author, Matt Murphy
  • Role, BBC News
  • Report of London

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has urged Western leaders to pressure Russia to make peace using “any means” necessary.

Speaking from Spain, Mr Zelensky said it was necessary to exert “tangible coercion on Russia”, which seeks to “destroy Ukraine and move forward”.

Mr Zelensky has long said he would not negotiate directly with Russia until Moscow’s forces leave all Ukrainian territory, including Crimea.

His call, however, comes as Russia makes progress against Ukraine, with kyiv suffering a shortage of weapons supplied by the West.

Russia, President Zelensky said, was dropping some 3,200 guided aerial bombs on Ukraine every month.

“How do you combat this? he asked reporters in Madrid where he met Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez.

Ukraine’s leader has rejected the idea of ​​inviting Russia to a peace summit planned in Switzerland next month.

The summit is expected to include representatives from more than 90 countries.

Delegates will attempt to chart a path forward for a just and lasting peace in Ukraine, based on 10 demands made by kyiv calling for the return of all invaded territories, payment of reparations for war-related damages and the creation of a special tribunal to prosecute the Russian war. crimes, a plan that Moscow has categorically rejected.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russian President Vladimir Putin was ready to enter into negotiations, but only “to achieve the goals currently achieved through the special military operation,” as Russia describes the war in Ukraine.

In Madrid, Mr. Zelensky urged Western leaders to lift a ban on using donated weapons to strike internationally recognized Russian territory.

Most Western countries, including the United States, have insisted that kyiv focus its attacks on Russian forces occupying Ukrainian territory.

“We must work together and put pressure not only on Russia, but also on our partners to give us the opportunity to defend ourselves against Russia,” the Ukrainian leader said.

One of the conditions for receiving billions of pounds of aid from Western allies is that kyiv sets out its own vision of how this war should end.

This is why President Zelensky previously released a “10-point peace plan” that includes the complete withdrawal of Russian forces and guarantees against future Russian aggression.

This is what kyiv has always demanded, but the tone has changed.

The summit in Switzerland creates urgency for President Zelensky. He wishes to galvanize the international dynamic behind his mandates.

So far, it is mainly Ukraine that has demanded a complete withdrawal from Russia, and the West has tried to support it in this endeavour. The summit could be his only chance to make this a non-negotiable subject for his allies as well and to keep the negotiating table at bay.

The more nations there are, the more political pressure could be felt by the Kremlin.

Or at least that’s the hope.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said any peace deal should “reflect the reality of the battlefield.” This reality means that its troops continue to carry out a major cross-border offensive in the Kharkiv region of northeastern Ukraine. As a result, more villages are captured.

As has been the case for 18 months, its soldiers are not just seizing territory, they are keeping it. Russia, or Vladimir Putin, need not compromise on anything yet.

But kyiv says any compromise or gray area plays into Moscow’s hands. It highlights the failure of previous ceasefires during Russia’s decade of aggression, as well as the argument that Mr. Putin will eventually want to seize all of Ukraine, while the world’s gaze turns elsewhere.

Ukrainian commanders claim to be in control, and President Zelensky’s resumption of international travel may reflect this.

What also fueled his trip to Madrid was his constant need to combat war fatigue and obtain continued military and humanitarian aid.

Spain’s $1 billion (£783 million) announcement shows that Mr Zelensky’s diplomacy can still bear fruit.

President Putin launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

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