Ukraine: ‘Russia wants a pause to replenish its forces’

Dmytro Kuleba
Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba speaks during a press conference as he attends the ASEAN Summit (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022. (AP Photo/Vincent Than) Vincent Thian/AP

Ukraine: ‘Russia wants a pause to replenish its forces’

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Russia’s latest demands to start peace negotiations without withdrawing troops from Ukraine is a ploy to buy time for the next phase of the war, according to the top Ukrainian diplomat.

“No other country in the world wants peace in Ukraine more than Ukraine itself … but we also know that accepting Russian ultimatums will not bring peace,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said in a videoconference with the European Union Foreign Affairs Council. “Russia wants a pause to replenish its forces and launch an even more brutal attack as soon as it will be able to do so.”

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Kuleba shot down “speculations around the peace process,” following days of public signs that Moscow and even U.S. Army General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, perceived Russia’s retreat from Kherson as a potential opportunity to jumpstart a diplomatic process. Ukrainian officials have shown no interest in a provisional ceasefire, and Western leaders have adopted in public at least the position that Ukrainian leaders can define circumstances under which they are willing to negotiate.

“And we are not going to engage in any negotiation … about Ukraine without Ukraine. This is a decision Ukraine has to make,” President Joe Biden told reporters at the G-20 Summit in Bali, Indonesia. “I think you’re going to see things slow down a bit because of the winter months and the inability to move as — as easily around the country. But I think it remains to be seen exactly what the outcome will be, except that I’m confident that Russia will not occupy … Ukraine as they intended from the beginning.”

Kuleba implied that anyone who encourages Ukraine to make territorial concessions now would be repeating the mistakes that European powers made in their abortive attempt to avoid a conflict with Nazi Germany.

“This is a new 1938 moment for Europe and certainly not a time to seek ‘peace for our time,’” Kuleba said, referring to the infamous Munich Agreement that conceded Czechoslovakian territory to Adolf Hitler’s control. “We need real peace this time. Otherwise, all of our names will be put down in history books as appeasers who failed to prevent a catastrophe. And none of us, I mean both you and me, are interested in this.”

Biden hailed the liberation of Kherson as “a significant victory,” one that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky characterized as a portent of Ukraine’s eventual triumph against the Russian invasion.

“We are ready for peace, but peace for our entire country,” Zelensky said Monday. “We are not interested in the territory of other countries. We are only interested in the de-occupation of our country and our territories. Therefore, I don’t know what will happen next, but it will happen.”

Other Western leaders endorsed that posture. “I think the possibility for negotiations comes when Russia withdraws [its troops] from those areas that Russia has been occup[ying],” Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said Monday. “The time of the negotiations is something that Ukraine has to define and I think they have clear goals of taking back those areas that have been occupied by Russia.”

That statement drew a retort from a senior Russian diplomat. “No, such conditions are certainly unacceptable,” Russian deputy foreign minister Alexander Grushko said Monday. “Our president has repeatedly said that we are ready for negotiations. But these negotiations must, of course, take into account the situation on the ground.”

Kremlin officials have refused to admit that Kherson is not Russian territory, even in the days since Russian forces retreated from the southern Ukrainian city. Russian President Vladimir Putin signed papers formalizing the annexation of Kherson in September, in the midst of a Ukrainian counter-offensive that forced Russian troops to withdraw from Kherson last week. Ukrainian officials hope to continue those battlefield successes, whereas Russian officials are trying to blunt the Ukrainian counter-offensive and train 300,000 conscripts to alleviate a shortage of Russian manpower.

“We must wait for another turn, when either Russians understand that these hundreds of thousands do not help, or, let’s say, that the Ukrainians realize that they cannot break through,” the senior European official told the Washington Examiner. “It’s clear now the war will continue, at minimum, until next summer, most probably. At minimum. This is what I have heard, also, from the Ukrainians.”

European Union officials agreed to launch a military assistance mission “with the purpose of training at least 15,000 Ukrainian soldiers,” the European bloc’s top diplomat announced.

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“The Russian Army has withdrawn to the other side of the Dnipro River, and it is trying to compensate these military failures with efforts to increase the human suffering of the Ukrainian people — especially now as the winter is approaching,’ EU High Rep. Josep Borrell said Monday. “It is up to the Ukrainians to decide what does it mean for them: ‘victory” is up to them. The country which has been destroyed is Ukraine. The people frozen are Ukrainians. The 7 million people that fled Ukraine are Ukrainians. The casualties are Ukrainians, so let Ukrainians decide. I think it is quite logical. How can I say to the Ukrainians what they have to do? The only thing I can tell them is: ‘we will support you.’”

Kuleba expressed gratitude for that posture with an argument against Russia’s stated interest in negotiations. “Signals from Russia that they are open for talks is nothing else but a smoke screen for its continued aggression,” he said. “Putin does not want any compromises right now. This is why President Zelensky clearly stressed: Russia must withdraw troops from the Ukrainian territory within internationally recognized borders. This will pave the wave for the peace process.”

© 2022 Washington Examiner

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