Putin Ukraine war peace plan slammed as ‘offensive’

Russian President Vladimir Putin has floated a possible peace plan for the conflict in Ukraine, but it has already been dismissed as “offensive”.

According to Moscow’s ceasefire proposal, Russia would be left with much more territory than it managed to conquer.

This comes the day before a peace summit on the war begins in Switzerland.

In a combative speech in Moscow, Putin said Russia would stop its offensive only if Ukraine completely withdraws its troops from the east and south and gives up its bid to join NATO.

The plan calls for Ukraine to effectively surrender to Moscow if it wants to open peace talks, drawing anger and rebukes from Kiev and the West.

The two countries have been locked in a bloody conflict for more than two years and no direct peace talks have been held since the first weeks of Russia’s campaign, as it advanced on the Ukrainian capital.

Kiev has called for Russia’s complete withdrawal from its internationally recognized territory, including the annexed Crimean peninsula, as part of any peace deal.

President Volodymyr Zelensky, who hopes to win international support for this position this weekend, criticized Putin’s demands as a territorial “ultimatum” reminiscent of Adolf Hitler.

“Ukrainian troops must be completely withdrawn from the regions of the Donetsk People’s Republic, the Lugamsk (Luhansk) People’s Republic, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia,” Putin said in a televised address to Russian diplomats in Moscow.

Russia said it had annexed the four regions in 2022, despite not having full control over any of them.

The regional capitals of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia are still in Ukrainian hands, meaning Putin is demanding Ukraine cede swathes of territory under its control as a precondition for negotiations.

“As soon as Kiev says that it is ready to do this and really starts to withdraw troops and officially renounces plans to join NATO, immediately, literally at that very moment, we will cease fire and start talks,” Putin said.

Russia aimed for “the neutral, non-aligned and non-nuclear status of Ukraine, its demilitarization and denazification,” he added.

‘Ultimatum’

Kiev immediately attacked the demands.

“These messages are ultimatum messages… it’s the same thing that Hitler did,” Zelensky told Italian TV channel Sky TG24 on the sidelines of the G7 summit.

“Nazism has already arrived and now it has the face of Putin,” he added.

Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry said the “absurd” demands showed that Russia wants “the occupation of Ukraine, the destruction of the Ukrainian people.”

Presidential advisor Mykhailo Podolyak said Putin’s plan was a “complete farce” and “offensive to common sense.”

And even Western supporters of Ukraine have criticized Russia for these proposals. At the end of a NATO meeting in Brussels, US Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin said: “Putin has occupied, illegally occupied, sovereign Ukrainian territory. He is in no position to dictate to Ukraine what it must do to bring peace.”

Jens Stoltenberg, the alliance’s head, said Putin had not acted in “good faith”.

“This is a proposal that actually means that Russia should achieve its war goals, expecting the Ukrainians to cede much more territory than Russia has been able to occupy so far,” he said.

Ukraine has said it will support peace only if Russia fully withdraws. He views any suspension of fighting on Moscow’s terms as an opportunity for Russia to regroup for another attack, aiming to capture the entire country.

Putin on Friday said Moscow could let Ukraine maintain “sovereignty” over the southern regions of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, “provided that Russia has a strong land connection with Crimea.”

Military analysts have long argued that Russia wants to control a “land bridge” between Russia and the Crimean peninsula, along Ukraine’s southern coast.

In public, Putin and senior Russian officials have generally tried to justify their offensive by saying they were protecting Russians and Russian-speakers in eastern Ukraine from a “neo-Nazi” regime in Kiev, rather than trying to conquer territory.

Ukraine and the West have always rejected such accusations as unfounded and say that Russia’s military actions are blatant imperial-style aggression.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said later Friday that rejecting Putin’s demands means “depriving Ukrainian citizens of a real chance for peace.”

‘Trick’

Putin’s comments came a day before heads of state and senior officials from around 90 countries and organizations gathered in Switzerland for a major summit on peace in Ukraine.

Kiev will use the forum to outline its peace agenda and rally international support.

Russia was not invited and Putin on Friday dismissed the initiative as a “trick” to distract attention.

Ukraine struggled on the battlefield in 2024, facing manpower and ammunition shortages as well as obstacles to Western military aid.

Frontline soldiers in the eastern Donetsk region told AFP of an intensification of Russian attacks over the past two weeks.

Moscow last month launched a new ground assault in the northeastern Kharkiv region, further straining Ukrainian forces.

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