Vladimir Putin is no longer open to diplomacy to end the war in Ukraine, which suggests he's focusing on a 'land-grab' strategy instead, according to the Financial Times, citing three people briefed on conversations with the Russian President.
The Russian president was said to have been seriously considering a peace deal in the wake of several battlefield setbacks last month.
Early peace talks faltered following a meeting in Istanbul in late March, after Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky accused the Kremlin of committing war crimes against civilians in Mariupol and Bucha.
According to Putin, peace efforts were at a "dead end," and was particularly upset over the sinking of the Russian Black Sea flagship, Moskva, according to two of FT's sources.
"There was hope for a deal. Putin was going back and forth. He needs to find a way to come out of this a winner," said one source, who added that when the Moskva sank, "Putin was against signing anything. [ . . . ] after the Moskva he doesn’t look like a winner, because it was humiliating."
According to a relatively new narrative, Putin has a 'distorted' view of the war due to his own generals, and Russian television, painting a victorious picture - which has led the Russian president to insist that civilians were not targeted during the attacks.
"Putin sincerely believes in the nonsense he hears on [Russian] television and he wants to win big," said one source.
Intermediaries such as Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, European Council president Charles Michel and billionaire Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich have been trying to convince Putin to meet Zelensky in hope they can break the deadlock.
Russian and Ukrainian negotiators have placed most other issues on the back burner while trying to thrash out a deal on guarantees for Kyiv’s security if it declares neutrality and abandons its drive to join Nato.
But Putin told Michel in a call on Friday that the talks had run aground because Ukraine “put up a wall” and said it “was not the right time” to meet Zelensky, according to a person briefed on that conversation. -FT
According to negotiators, Putin's new stance on diplomacy means Russia believes it can capture more Ukrainian territory.
On Saturday, Zelensky said that he wanted negotiations to continue unless people in Mariupol continued to die, or if Russian authorities in the Kherson region were to stage a separatist referendum.
In short, peace talks are going nowhere fast.