‘Much softer’: Is Russia looking at a way out of the Ukrainian war? | News about the war between Russia and Ukraine

‘Much softer’: Is Russia looking at a way out of the Ukrainian war? | News about the war between Russia and Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin may be softening his hardline stance on the war in Ukraine as Moscow’s defense minister held rare talks with his US counterpart after a series of battlefield setbacks.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has mediated between Russia and Ukraine, said Friday that Putin seemed “much softer and more open to negotiations” with Ukraine than in the past.

“We are not without hope,” Erdogan said of the possibility talks about ending the conflict.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Friday that Putin was open to negotiations “from the very beginning” and that “nothing has changed.”

“If you remember, President Putin tried to initiate talks with both NATO and the United States before special military operations,” he said.

“Putin was open to negotiations when the Russian and Ukrainian document was almost agreed upon [negotiators]. So nothing has changed in that regard. The position of the Ukrainian side has changed… Ukrainian law now prohibits any negotiations,” Peskov added.

Earlier this month, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in an interview that Russia is ready to engage with the United States or Turkey on ways to end the war, now in its eighth month, but has yet to receive any serious proposal for talks.

He compared the biggest conflict in Europe in the last few decades to 1962 The Cuban Missile Crisiswhich brought the world to the brink of nuclear war and raised questions about whether Washington and Moscow should engage in negotiations to avoid an escalation of conflict, including nuclear confrontation.

‘maintaining communication’

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, meanwhile, spoke by phone with US Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin on Friday – their first call in five months.

The two discussed “international security issues, especially the situation in Ukraine,” the Russian Defense Ministry said.

“Secretary Austin stressed importance of maintaining lines of communication amid ongoing war against Ukraine,” Pentagon it is stated in the announcement.

It was only the second time Shoigu and Austin had spoken since the invasion began on February 24. On May 13, Austin requested an immediate cease-fire and made the same request for open lines of communication.

At the time, Russian invasion forces had been routed from the capital, Kiev, but were making steady gains in the eastern regions of Donbass and Kharkiv and consolidating positions in the south.

However, six months later, Ukrainian forces withdrew on all fronts.

In recent weeks, the Kiev army — with the help of Western weapons — has been making progress towards the capital of the southern region Khersonwhich is also called Kherson.

Kherson was the first key city to fall to Moscow troops and its recapture would be a major victory in Ukrainian counteroffensive. Russian officials are trying to evacuate up to 60,000 people from the Kherson region for their safety and allow the army to build fortifications.

Ukraine’s push in the south comes after a broad counterattack in the northeast of the Kharkiv region, which seriously damaged Russian supply routes and logistics corridors in Donbass.


‘Meaningful diplomacy’

It remains to be seen whether the military setbacks have forced Russia to look for possible exits from Ukraine.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Friday that Washington would consider all means of advancing diplomacy with Russia if it sees an opening, but at this point Moscow shows no signs of willingness to engage in meaningful talks.

“All indications are that far from being ready to engage in meaningful diplomacy, President Putin continues to push in the opposite direction,” Blinken told a news conference.

“We are considering and we will consider all ways to improve diplomacy if we see the possibility to improve it in any way, of course we will always look at it,” he said, but added that Moscow is instead “doubling and tripling” its aggression.

Russia intensified its missile attacks and drones on Ukraine’s energy and water infrastructure this week in what Ukraine and the West are calling a campaign to intimidate civilians ahead of a cold winter.

New Mariupol?

For now, the next significant battle seems to be for the city of Kherson.

Analyst Mihajlo Samus said Russian troops should have been evacuated “a long time ago”, but added it was unlikely the Ukrainians would want to attack a Russian-held city with tens of thousands of residents.

“Ukrainians will not fight any battle for Kherson. They don’t attack and destroy cities like Russia, like Mariupol,” Samus said, referring to the city that the Russians smashed into ruins earlier in the war.

Retired US General Ben Hodges agreed that the Ukrainians were likely to avoid “a giant fight inside the city” and instead “keep these Russian troops pinned down there so they can’t escape”.

Pierre Grasser, a researcher at Paris’ Sorbonne University, said Ukrainian troops must carefully time their movements outside the city. Any closer and “they will enter the suburbs of Kherson, and that could be dangerous,” he said.

“Urban warfare always leads to many deaths on the side of the attacker [and] would risk a new Mariupol” in terms of damage, Grasser said.

Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, the commander-in-chief of Ukraine’s armed forces, faces a dilemma, analysts say.

“The siege [the city] as long as necessary or destroy it and reduce it to rubble,” said retired French general Michel Yakovleff, calling it a “terrible choice.”

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