Putin Offers Cease-Fire If Ukraine Surrenders Eastern Provinces

The Russian leader said a cease-fire was needed to achieve ‘unity between Russia and Ukraine and in Europe in general.’
Putin Offers Cease-Fire If Ukraine Surrenders Eastern Provinces
Russia's President Vladimir Putin meets with the Russian Foreign Ministry leadership in Moscow on June 14, 2024. (Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP via Getty Images)
Andrew Thornebrooke

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he would agree to a cease-fire with Ukraine if the embattled nation surrendered its occupied territories to Russia.

Mr. Putin promised on June 14 to “immediately” order a cease-fire with Ukraine and begin peace negotiations if Kyiv agreed to withdraw all troops from the four regions annexed by Moscow in 2022 and renounced any plans to join NATO.

“We’re urging to turn this tragic page of history and to begin restoring, step-by-step, the unity between Russia and Ukraine and in Europe in general.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy rejected the overture, saying it is a Russian ploy to trick Ukraine into surrendering territory where it still has troops.

“What Putin demands is to give them a part of our territories, those occupied and not occupied, talking about several regions of our country,” Mr. Zelenskyy said.

To that end, Mr. Putin’s demands included Ukraine’s full withdrawal from Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, where Russian forces have failed thus far to seize control of key population centers.

Relatedly, Ukraine is not currently being considered for NATO membership, although Kyiv has expressed interest in doing so. It is unlikely that Ukraine could succeed in joining NATO, as its accession would require unanimous approval by all NATO member states including Hungary and Turkey, which are unlikely to agree to such a controversial act.

Mr. Putin’s remarks come just a day ahead of a peace summit in Switzerland which will be attended by 90 delegations from nations and international organizations around the world. Russia and its strategic partner China will not attend.

Mr. Putin said the Switzerland peace conference would “set the discussion on the wrong track.”

The comments also come just a day after Mr. Zelenskyy and U.S. President Joe Biden signed a security agreement, which will see Ukraine receive $50 billion in loans from the United States and its partners to improve its defenses against Russia.

Russia’s hesitancy about the conference stems in part from its unwillingness to show any sign of acceptance of the Ukrainian peace formula.

Mr. Putin’s conditions for a cease-fire run against the primary goals of the 10-point peace plan championed by Mr. Zelenskyy, which calls for the removal of Russian troops from all occupied regions of Ukraine, including Crimea which was annexed by Russia in 2014.

The statements from Moscow do suggest something of a softening in Mr. Putin’s goals for Ukraine, however.

While Ukrainian neutrality and the annexation of predominantly Russian-speaking regions of Ukraine have been among Mr. Putin’s objectives since day one of the war, his latest comments appear to have given up on one of the war’s key objectives: the forced demilitarization of Ukraine.

Still, both the Ukrainian and Russian calls for a cease-fire are unlikely to be taken seriously by the other side, and might instead be considered the first attempts to frame the acceptable boundaries of a future negotiation.

For the United States’ part, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said at NATO headquarters in Brussels that Putin “started this war with no provocation. He could end it today if he chose to do that.”

“[Putin] has illegally occupied sovereign Ukrainian territory,“ Mr. Austin said. ”He is not in any position to dictate to Ukraine what they must do to bring about a peace.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Andrew Thornebrooke is a national security correspondent for The Epoch Times covering China-related issues with a focus on defense, military affairs, and national security. He holds a master's in military history from Norwich University.