Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyy has outlined his conditions for a peace settlement to end the war with Russia, pushing back against some western suggestions that Kyiv should compromise with Moscow over its borders.
While Zelenskyy said on Tuesday that he was open to peace talks, he stressed he would not pause the fighting over winter. His comments follow suggestions by some US officials, including military chief Gen Mark Milley, that Ukraine might not expel Russian forces out of all its territory and that winter may provide an opportunity to begin negotiations with Russia.
“We will not allow Russia to wait it out, build up its forces, and then start a new series of terror and global destabilisation,” Zelenskyy said in a video address to the G20 summit in Bali. “I am convinced now is the time when the Russian destructive war must and can be stopped.”
Snubbing Russia by addressing leaders of the “G19”, Zelensky said his “path to peace” was “not only for us, but also for all of you, your allies and partners”.
Some western diplomats have privately discussed the February 24 lines as a likely starting point for talks.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Zelenskyy’s plan was confirmation that Kyiv had “no desire to hold negotiations”, state newswire Ria Novosti reported.
Russian president Vladimir Putin did not attend the G20 and was represented by his foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov.
Zelenskyy said his 10-point plan was created “on the basis of the UN charter and international law”.
Repeating his previous calls for the total withdrawal of Russian troops, Zelenskyy called for the cessation of hostilities and the release of all prisoners of war and Ukrainians forcibly deported by Moscow.
He also said that energy security would be key to Ukraine’s success and a lasting peace.
“All of you can witness what the Russian terror is aimed at now,” he said. “This is an attempt to turn the cold into a weapon. A weapon against millions of people.”
About 40 per cent of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure has been destroyed by Russian missile and drone strikes since early October.
“Every week, Russia blows up our power plants, transformers, and electricity supply lines,” Zelenskyy added.
The president’s call followed his unannounced visit to Kherson on Monday, three days after Ukrainian troops liberated the city from Russian forces in one of the most significant military achievements since Putin launched the all-out invasion of Ukraine in February.
“It is like, for example, D-Day — the landing of the Allies in Normandy,” Zelenskyy said as he greeted Kherson residents and oversaw the return of the Ukrainian flag over the city.
Kherson was the only provincial capital that Russian forces had captured.
Ukrainian officials have stressed in recent days that they intend to keep fighting, despite mixed messages from the west about whether it was time to more seriously consider negotiations with Russia.
Ukraine’s military chief Gen Valerii Zaluzhny spoke with his US counterpart Milley on Monday and told him that “we will fight as long as we have the strength”, and that Ukraine would press ahead with the government’s goal to liberate all Ukrainian territory occupied by Russian forces. Milley has been a vocal proponent of finding an opportunity for peace talks this winter.
“We will not stop on this path under any circumstances. The Ukrainian military will not accept any negotiations, agreements or compromises,” Zaluzhny told Milley.
A debate among US officials about when Ukraine should hold negotiations with Russia has spilled into the open, with Milley saying last week that a pause in winter fighting would create “a window of opportunity for negotiations”.
US national security adviser Jake Sullivan later told reporters that “as long as Russia holds the position that it simply gets to grab as much territory as it wants by force, it’s hard to see them as a good-faith counterparty in a negotiation”.
US president Joe Biden and other senior American officials have stressed recently that they will continue to supply Ukraine with lethal military aid, with another package expected in the coming weeks.