We are now into the twelfth day of hard fighting in what I’m convinced Vladimir Putin thought would be a 48-hour “cakewalk,” to coin an expression, to conquer Ukraine.
There are many reasons to think that things are not going well for the Russians, and, as a result, the Russian Army is falling back on what it does best, which is demolishing cities and targeting noncombatants. Those are not great tactics, but when things start to fall apart, you have to go with what you know.
On Monday morning, Vladimir Putin’s Charlie McCarthy, Dmitry Peskov, announced the Kremlin’s demands.
Dmitry Peskov said Moscow was demanding that Ukraine cease military action, change its constitution to enshrine neutrality, acknowledge Crimea as Russian territory, and recognise the separatist republics of Donetsk and Lugansk as independent states.
It was the most explicit Russian statement so far of the terms it wants to impose on Ukraine to halt what it calls its “special military operation”, now in its 12th day.
Peskov told Reuters in a telephone interview that Ukraine was aware of the conditions. “And they were told that all this can be stopped in a moment.”
But the Kremlin spokesman insisted Russia was not seeking to make any further territorial claims on Ukraine and said it was “not true” that it was demanding Kyiv be handed over.
“We really are finishing the demilitarisation of Ukraine. We will finish it. But the main thing is that Ukraine ceases its military action. They should stop their military action and then no one will shoot,” he said.
On the issue of neutrality, Peskov said: “They should make amendments to the constitution according to which Ukraine would reject any aims to enter any bloc.”
He added: “We have also spoken about how they should recognise that Crimea is Russian territory and that they need to recognise that Donetsk and Lugansk are independent states. And that’s it. It will stop in a moment.”
There is very little new here.
Russia is demanding that Ukrainian troops lay down their arms without a ceasefire and that the Ukrainian military be disbanded or the country “demilitarized,” as Putin calls it. The Russians are still demanding Ukraine acknowledge the annexation of Crimea and the independence of the two Russian puppet states of Donetsk and Luhansk. They demand that Ukraine forswear any plans to join any “bloc” and embrace neutrality. There is no promise that Russian troops will ever leave Ukraine.
There might have been a tiny bit of movement. The Russians are no longer demanding that the Zelensky government be replaced (or “denazified” in the charming vernacular of Russian diplomacy) or that the Zelensky government be tried for war crimes for their attempt to put down the AstroTurf “separatist” movement created and maintained by Russia. That may be more dissimulation than a softening of position. If the Ukrainian army disbands and the Russians continue to stay in Ukraine, there is nothing to prevent the Russians from hunting down and prosecuting members of the Ukrainian government. But any sign that Putin is backing off his demand for unconditional surrender and that Ukraine accepts status as a Russian client state because “neutrality” is not possible given Ukraine’s history and location is welcome.
All in all, it is a deeply un-serious proposal that seems more like an information operation directed at the Western media than anything else. It certainly doesn’t reflect the state of play in Ukraine or how the near future is shaping up. Any agreement between Russia and Ukraine should be preceded by a ceasefire and a return of all Russian troops to Russia.
Join the conversation as a VIP Member