De-coding Putin’s ceasefire briefings – what he says and what he means (2024)

Kremlin sources have suggested Vladimir Putin wants a ceasefire among a string of other “revelations”.

But what is behind the briefings – and what does Putin really want?

“Putin can fight for as long as it takes, but Putin is also ready for a ceasefire – to freeze the war”

This restates the Kremlin’s long-standing official position, which is that it is ready for peace talks but that Ukraine must recognise “new realities” on the ground as a precondition.

By “realities” the Kremlin means Russia’s control of around 18 per cent of Ukrainian territory. Russia has officially “annexed” four Ukrainian regions – Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhya and Kherson – but does not fully control any of them.

Freezing the conflict along current lines would mean Russia de facto – but not formally – parking its claim on those regions for the time being. Perhaps Putin views that as a sufficient concession.

Ukraine has made clear that trading land for peace is unacceptable because it would reward the aggressor and give him an incentive to invade again in future. Many of its allies agree.

Tatiana Stanovaya, founder of the R.Politik think tank, said on X that Putin may announce the “annexation” of the Kharkiv region in a signal that the price for peace will increase if his demands are not met.

“Putin will say that we won, that Nato attacked us and we kept our sovereignty, that we have a land corridor to Crimea, which is true”

That is exactly what any observer of the Kremlin would expect him to do.

Putin went into this war with big ambitions. The “special military operation” was meant to topple Kyiv’s West-leaning government and prevent Nato’s eastward expansion but also conquer (“take back”, in Putin’s words) Ukraine’s most important cities and the entire Black Sea coast as far as Moldova.

After failing to capture Kyiv, Kharkiv and Odessa, Putin switched his publicly declared war aims to the more modest goal “liberating” the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

He hasn’t achieved that either, but it doesn’t really matter. He has total control over Russian broadcast media and has nearly strangled the once boisterous and diverse Russian internet.

He is unlikely to have much trouble telling the Russian public that capturing a land corridor to Crimea and defying unprovoked aggression by the Nato alliance is a glorious victory. The failure outside Kyiv will be forgotten.

Putin is content with his gains because any new major offensives would require another public mobilisation scheme

This fits with most mainstream analysis of the Kremlin’s thinking.

Putin’s administration has a long-standing addiction to opinion polls and focus groups, and is generally allergic to anything that could blunt his popularity.

That’s why he for months resisted his generals’ requests for mobilisation after the failure of the initial invasion in 2022.

Sure enough, the first – and so far only – wave of mobilisation in September 2022 was incredibly unpopular domestically.

Thousands of people fled the country to avoid conscription and Putin’s poll ratings dropped.

Since then, Russia has managed to recruit enough volunteers to replenish losses and make incremental advances, but cannot generate reserves large enough for dramatic breakthroughs.

The force that attacked the Kharkiv region this month is thought to be too small to threaten the city of Kharkiv itself, for example.

No agreement could happen while Zelensky was in power, unless Russia bypassed him and struck a deal with Washington

This is true. Mr Zelensky has staked his political career on a victory, and sees peace talks with Putin – especially with the kind of concessions Russia is demanding – as toxic to his popularity.

Moscow is likely to target Kyiv’s Western backers in the hope that countries such as the US, UK, France and Germany will use Ukraine’s dependence on them to force Mr Zelensky into a deal.

Talking to Washington instead of Kyiv also reflects the Kremlin’s beliefs that Ukraine is not a real country; that Mr Zelensky is a puppet of the West; and that great powers – the US and Russia – should be the real arbiters of peace.

But in Washington and London especially, officials don’t believe Putin is genuinely interested in talks. Most believe he still maintains his goal of taking control of most of Ukraine, either through conquest or by replacing Mr Zelensky with a pliant, pro-Russian replacement.

De-coding Putin’s ceasefire briefings – what he says and what he means (2024)


Why is Russia at war with Ukraine? ›

The Russo-Ukrainian War is an ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine, which began in February 2014. Following Ukraine's Revolution of Dignity, Russia occupied and annexed Crimea from Ukraine and supported pro-Russian separatists fighting the Ukrainian military in the Donbas war.

What is the main reason for Russia invading Ukraine? ›

Putin espoused irredentist views challenging Ukraine's right to exist, and falsely claimed that Ukraine was governed by neo-Nazis persecuting the Russian minority. He said his goal was to "demilitarise and denazify" Ukraine.

How long can Russia sustain war? ›

The authors concluded Russia could sustain its current rate of attrition for up to three years and maybe longer.

Why is the US helping Ukraine? ›

"The support doesn't just help Ukraine," the general said. "It strengthens NATO and helps to bolster the defense industrial base in the United States, Europe and the world. It enables our own security. The collective support will ensure Ukraine is successful today and into the future."

Was Ukraine part of Russia? ›

17th and 18th-century Ukraine

Galicia fell to the Austrian Empire, and the rest of Ukraine to the Russian Empire. While right-bank Ukraine belonged to the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth until late 1793, left-bank Ukraine had been incorporated into Tsardom of Russia in 1667 (under the Treaty of Andrusovo).

How much of Ukraine does Russia control? ›

By 11 November 2022, the Institute for the Study of War calculated that Ukrainian forces had liberated an area of 74,443 km2 (28,743 sq mi) from Russian occupation, leaving Russia with control of about 18% of Ukraine's territory.

Why did Russia sell Alaska? ›

Russia offered to sell Alaska to the United States in 1859, believing the United States would off-set the designs of Russia's greatest rival in the Pacific, Great Britain.


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