Russian President Vladimir Putin has “lost interest” in diplomatic efforts to end the war in Ukraine, and now simply intends to capture as much of that country’s territory as he can, The Financial Times reported Sunday, citing three people briefed on peace talks.
The unnamed individuals, who were given information on conversations with the Russian leader, said Putin previously did consider a peace deal after his initial military blunders, but now no longer sees that as an option.
Two of the sources quoted Putin describing the peace talks as being at a “dead end,” and noted that he became enraged by Ukraine’s sinking of Russia’s Black Fleet flagship, the Moskva cruiser.
A source said Putin now “needs to find a way to come out of this a winner,” but with the sinking of the Moskva, “he doesn’t look like a winner, because it was humiliating.”
Peace talks had made some progress last month at a meeting in Istanbul, but have since been stalled. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called for a face-to-face meeting with Putin, but the Russian leader is avoiding a summit “with all his might,” one source said, because he wants “everything to be decided before their personal meeting.”
Putin told European Council President Charles Michel in a Friday phone call that it “was not the right time” to meet with Zelensky, a person briefed on the call said.
Negotiators understood that to mean Putin wants to gain more territory rather than give talks time to succeed, according to the report.
Kyiv officials are concerned that Putin may aim to go beyond just seizing the eastern Donbas border region and try to take control of Ukraine’s entire southeast, and with it, the country’s access to the sea, the report said, citing those involved in peace efforts.
Officials are also concerned, however, that should Ukraine make military gains and push back Russian forces, Putin could use tactical nuclear weapons, two of the sources said.
All three sources said Putin has a warped view of the situation in Ukraine, believing what his generals are telling him and reports from Russian television.
He continues to insist that Russia’s forces are not targeting civilians, despite mounting evidence that they are, they said.
The president “sincerely believes in the nonsense he hears on television and he wants to win big,” one person briefed on the peace talks was quoted as saying.
On Saturday, Zelensky said he was “not afraid to meet” Putin if it would lead to a peace deal between Russia and Ukraine.
However, Zelensky repeated his warning that Ukraine would break off talks if Russia killed the remaining Ukrainian soldiers in the besieged Black Sea port of Mariupol.
Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine in February, but apparent hopes for a swift victory have been derailed by Ukraine’s determined defense. Despite eight weeks of fighting, Russia has struggled to capture major cities, including the strategic port city of Mauripol and the capital, Kyiv.