Putin knew Kyiv would reject ceasefire offer – where will the escalation end?


As ever with Vladimir Putin, timing is everything.

It’s no coincidence his latest speech was made on the eve of the Ukraine peace summit in Switzerland. Russia won’t be there as it hasn’t been invited.

So this was about putting Moscow’s side across first and undermining the summit’s legitimacy before it has even begun.

Putin has said Russia would be ready for peace talks “tomorrow” if Ukrainian troops withdraw from the Zaporizhzhia, Kherson, Donetsk and Luhansk regions – and if Ukraine gives up its plan to join NATO.

If Ukraine agrees, Putin said Russia would cease fire and begin negotiations.

But is his peace proposal credible? Not according to Ukraine or the West. Kyiv, NATO and the Pentagon have already all dismissed it with one of Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s advisors calling the offer a “complete sham”.

But the Kremlin sees things very differently, or at least pretends to.

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“We didn’t start the war,” Russia’s president said. “It was the Kyiv regime.”

Russia-Ukraine latest: Putin’s ceasefire offer labelled ‘total sham’

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According to Putin, Russia is the victim. Hence why he says Ukraine must withdraw its troops from the regions Russia occupies, rather than the other way around.

In reality, he knows these conditions are not something Kyiv will ever agree to. Ceding territory is a red line for President Zelenskyy.

Zelenskyy has been at G7 where a $50bn loan for Ukraine has been agreed. Pic: Reuters

But that doesn’t matter to Putin. This was more about seizing the initiative ahead of the Switzerland summit, where Zelenskyy will be centre stage.

As for relations with the West – Putin has said they’re “close to the point of no return”. What does that mean exactly? There was no mention of nuclear weapons this time, but it was a bleak assessment nonetheless and one that many in the West might agree with.

It’s fair to say relations between Russia and the West have taken a sharp turn for the worse in recent days.

We’ve had new threats, new sanctions and new military manoeuvres. Then yesterday, to top it off, the G7’s $50bn loan deal for Ukraine using frozen Russian assets. A deal Putin called “theft” that will prompt a retaliation.

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We don’t know what the response will be yet but it’s likely to involve the seizure of private US assets in Russia – something that’s already been discussed in Moscow. Last month, Putin signed a decree outlining how it would work.

It all gives the sense we’re suddenly moving more quickly along the path to possible escalation. And it makes one wonder – where will this end?

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