In a Sunday interview with Rossiya 1 state television, Russian President Vladimir Putin said his country is now ready to negotiate an end to the conflict in Ukraine. However, he once again pointed the finger at the West for making any dialogue toward an acceptable end to the fighting all but impossible.
"We are ready to negotiate with everyone involved about acceptable solutions, but that is up to them – we are not the ones refusing to negotiate, they are," Putin said.
"I believe that we are acting in the right direction, we are defending our national interests, the interests of our citizens, our people. And we have no other choice but to protect our citizens," he added.
From Moscow's point of view, a signal of Ukraine's 'seriousness' about talks would likely hinge on Kiev's willingness to compromise on territorial concessions, especially regarding the Donbas in the east. Additionally the Ukrainians would likely have to acknowledge Russian control over the Crimea.
However, President Zelensky on Wednesday in his speech before Congress pledged "absolute victory" and has of late been vehement in rejecting any talk of letting go of territory as a non-starter, especially as the months-long Ukrainian counteroffensive has met with some significant successes.
Also in the interview Putin continued his theme of the US and NATO waging a proxy war using Ukraine as a pawn. He said in the Sunday comments that the West is attempting to "tear apart" Russia.
"At the core of it all is the policy of our geopolitical opponents, aiming to tear apart Russia, the historical Russia," Putin said. "They have always tried to ‘divide and conquer’… Our goal is something else – to unite the Russian people."
🇷🇺⚔️🇺🇦Putin: "We simply have no other choice but to protect our citizens. But we are ready to negotiate with all the participants in this process about acceptable solutions, but that's their business - it's not us who refuse to negotiate, but they." pic.twitter.com/P9jYXnAvik— AZ 🛰🌏🌍🌎 (@AZgeopolitics) December 25, 2022
On Friday the US State Department said that Putin is belatedly "acknowledging reality" given that the day prior he for the first time ever used the word "war" to describe Russian actions in Ukraine. Putin had said in the Thursday televised news conference: "Our goal is not to spin this flywheel of a military conflict, but, on the contrary, to end this war," adding that "This is what we are striving for."
A State Department spokesperson reacted to Putin's unprecedented word choice by saying: "Since Feb. 24, the United States and rest of the world knew that Putin's 'special military operation' was an unprovoked and unjustified war against Ukraine. Finally, after 300 days, Putin called the war what it is."
At this point, and despite Putin's fresh remarks, all parties involved appear no closer to the negotiating table; instead, they seem further from this scenario than ever - given also US Patriot missiles are about to be transferred to Ukraine and could be a 'game-changer', while at the same time Putin is vowing his forces will destroy them.