It was revealed Friday by the Ukrainian side that the Kremlin has offered Kiev the possibility of reaching an agreement to implement a "short truce". It comes as there are more and more signals from Washington that it's ready to see both sides come to the table for some kind of ceasefire agreement.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Friday that Russian officials had attempted the overture, but he rejected the possibility, at a moment the Ukrainian counteroffensive has made recent gains, especially the retaking of Kherson city and many surrounding villages.
"Russia is now looking for a short truce, a respite to regain strength. Someone may call this the war's end, but such a respite will only worsen the situation," the Ukrainian leader said in a virtual address before the Halifax International Security Forum.
Zelensky then reiterated his hardened resolve to not consider the possibility of talks until Russian forces are defeated. "A truly real, long-lasting and honest peace can only be the result of the complete demolition of Russian aggression," Zelensky said.
There was no confirmation from the Kremlin side that such a specific offer was actually made. However, Russia has lately reiterated that it has always remained open to the possibility of dialogue. During his virtual G20 address last week, Zelensky issued a 10-point plan for ceasefire, which included the hardline position that no territorial concessions would be made.
Despite widespread reports that Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs, has been pushing the White House to get Zelensky to negotiate, other influential voices such as Secretary Antony Blinken and national security advisor Jake Sullivan have said it's "too early".
Gen. Milley's position is based on the assessment that forcing Russian troops completely out of the country anytime soon remains unrealistic.
The Biden administration on Friday reaffirmed that only the Zelensky government can make the determination of when it is ready to negotiate, if at all. In the meantime the potential for direct confrontation between NATO and Russia remains as unpredictable as ever, especially after the deadly Polish border missile incident of last Tuesday.
The Poland incident, which resulted in widespread accusations that Zelensky had sought to lie NATO into war with Russia, illustrates that the longer both sides grind on in the conflict while rejecting the idea of negotiated settlement, the greater the chances are for a 'mishap' leading to a WWIII scenario among nuclear-armed superpowers.