(CNSNews.com) – Ukrainian politicians are increasingly vocal about calls for the government to accept territorial compromises as the price for a ceasefire with Moscow.
In a post on his Telegram channel, Mykhailo Podoliak, an adviser to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said some politicians in Europe were urging Kyiv to accept “a ceasefire, a frozen conflict and the surrender of some territories for peace.”
“Ukraine will not take part in this discussion,” Podoliak said. “We do not trade our citizens, territories or sovereignty. This is a clear red line.”
He said Ukrainian society has paid a terrible price for Russia’s aggression, and any calls for territorial compromise “will receive a principled response.”
Three months after President Vladimir Putin’s invasion began, the costly war continues, with Ukrainians defenders facing off against Russian forces fighting to extend their control of territory seized in the south and east.
Zelenskyy recently revealed that French President Emmanuel Macron had urged him to accept the loss of some territory so that Putin could save face – an appeal which Zelenskyy said he rejected.
Earlier this week, former U.S. secretary of state Henry Kissinger suggested that Ukraine should be willing to give up part of its territory to reach a deal with Russia, for the good of the region and the world.
Addressing the World Economic Forum in Davos by video link, Kissinger stressed the importance of negotiations between Russia and Ukraine resuming within the next two months, and said that “ideally, the dividing line should return the status quo ante.”
He expressed the hope that the Ukrainians “match the heroism that they have shown in the war with wisdom for the balance in Europe and in the world at large.”
In a nightly video address to the nation, Zelenskyy criticized Kissinger’s stance, saying it was more fitting for 1938 than for 2022. (The historical reference was to Neville Chamberlain’s futile attempts to appease Hitler in Munich by ceding Czechoslovakian territory to Nazi Germany.)
Zelenskyy said editorials have begun to appear in some Western media saying Ukraine must be willing to give up territory in exchange for peace.
“And behind all these geopolitical speculations of those who advise Ukraine to give away something to Russia, ‘great geopoliticians’ are always unwilling to see ordinary people,” he said. “Ordinary Ukrainians. Millions of those who actually live in the territory they propose to exchange for the illusion of peace.”
‘Status quo ante’
The “status quo ante” referred to by Kissinger – the state of affairs in place before Putin ordered the invasion on February 24 – was that roughly half of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts (administrative areas) in the Donbass region were controlled by Russian proxies, and Crimea was annexed to Russia.
Putin had just recognized the “independence” of the two “people’s republics,” and established treaties of “friendship, cooperation and mutual assistance” with them. He invoked those treaties when launching what he called the “special military operation.”
A deal that ended the fighting but left large parts of Ukrainian territory – in addition to Crimea, which Putin annexed in 2014 – in the hands of Russia and its proxies would essentially “freeze” the conflict.
According to Podoliak, who has represented Ukraine in now-stalled peace negotiations with the Russians, that’s what Kyiv is coming under increasing pressure to accept.
But, he said in his Telegram post, “freezing” a conflict merely postpones it, while giving the aggressor time to learn from its mistakes and be better prepared next time.
He noted that 13 million Ukrainians have left their homes since the invasion began, and asked where they were supposed to go if some Ukrainian territory remains under Russian occupation.
As for those Ukrainians now living under Russian occupation, Podoliak said, “we will not allow anyone to trade their fortunes while sitting in a comfortable chair in a country that is not at war.”
Podoliak conceded that conflicts end at the negotiating table, and that this one would too. He also acknowledged that no-one was interested in a drawn-out war or an ongoing food crisis.
“But today, the shortest way to end the war is with weapons, sanctions and financial assistance to Ukraine,” he argued.
The U.S. government, under the current and previous two administrations, has never recognized Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and is supportive of Ukraine’s sovereignty within its international borders.
U.S. officials have said repeatedly that it is up to the Ukrainians to decide what they will and will not accept as a satisfactory outcome to the crisis.
During a briefing at the Pentagon on Monday, Defense Secretary Gen. Lloyd Austin reiterated that position again.
While U.S. support for Ukraine aims to strengthen its hands on the battlefield and at the negotiating table, he said, “what [the] end state looks like will be defined by the Ukrainians, and not by us.”
“This is Ukraine’s fight,” Austin said. “It’s not the United States’ fight. We are doing everything that we can to make sure that we are supporting them in their effort to defend their sovereign territory.”
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