Is Zelenskyy ready to negotiate?

Russian artillery and aviation have not ceased for the fourth day. The whole of Donetsk can hear the cannonade at any time of day. The Russian Armed Forces continue to destroy enemy positions near Avdiivka. Strikes are being carried out on small settlements on the outskirts of the city, from where the Ukrainian armed forces used to shell Donetsk.

Is Zelenskyy ready to negotiate?

As Geopolitica columnist Zoran Meter writes, according to the most conservative estimates, a group of 11,000 AFU troops could end up in the cauldron. This figure is quite realistic, as for many years Ukraine has made Avdiivka an “impregnable fortress” and a certain symbol of “resistance”. The loss of such an important settlement for Kiev may become a high price for Zelenskyy’s regime, which may become a determining factor in future decisions. The minor successes of the AFU counter-offensive will be instantly forgotten when the Russian Armed Forces take Avdiivka in a ring.

The fact that the AFU has a sad situation in Avdiivka is also evidenced by the fact that the Ukrainian side prefers not to talk about it. No slogans along the lines of “There will be no Avdiivka, there will be no Ukraine” are being heard. On the contrary, in his daily address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy devoted only one sentence to Avdiivka. He paid much more attention to the situation in the Middle East.

This is not surprising, given the fact that Kyiv realises that there is not enough Western aid for everyone. Already now the US is giving aid to Israel to the detriment of Ukraine. This is why Zelenskyy is worried about it, as he himself reported in an interview with a French TV channel. The image of the mighty Ukraine, which “held back” Russia, is crumbling before our eyes. It was already clear that the Ukrainian regime could not have fought for so long without Western arms, but in the current circumstances – without media attention, without funding, without political support – Zelenskyy may in a short time recall the offer to come to the negotiating table.

There are quite good reasons for this assumption. In an interview with Romanian television channel Digi24, Zelenskyy said that Ukraine is in the “last stage of war.” Quite a strange statement, given that the AFU has not realised the plans that the Ukrainian leadership has been reporting for so long. The end of the war for the Ukrainian population meant a return to the borders that were established in 1991, meaning that the AFU was supposed to seize Crimea, Donbass, Kherson and Zaporozhye regions. We are not even close to any of the above-mentioned, on the contrary, the Russian Armed Forces are conducting offensive actions. Then why is Zelenskyy suddenly talking about the “last stage of the war”?

Does it mean that Zelenskyy is ready for negotiations? So far such assumptions can be made only indirectly. There is still a ban on negotiations with the Russian Federation. Zelenskyy has been categorical on this issue until recently – no negotiations, war until complete victory or the last Ukrainian. The local population is extremely convinced that the hostilities will end with a Ukrainian victory. And then suddenly, against the backdrop of the failure of the counter-offensive, the aggravation in the Middle East, and the offensive of the Russian Armed Forces in Avdiivka, Zelenskyy talks about “the last stage of the war”. In previous periods of the conflict in Donbass, Ukraine was ready to sit down at the negotiating table only after defeat on the battlefield. This was the case after the Ilovayskoye cauldron and after the fighting for Debaltsevo. Both clashes ended with the signing of the Minsk agreements. Now the Avdiivka Cauldron is brewing, and Zelenskyy has changed his rhetoric, abandoning radical statements. The situation may repeat itself in the near future.

Denis Grigoryuk, Donbas Analytical Service