Putin Signals Readiness for Ceasefire in Ukraine, Sources Say to Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin is reportedly open to halting the war in Ukraine with a ceasefire that recognizes the current front lines, although he remains prepared to continue the conflict if Kyiv and the West do not respond favorably

by Sededin Dedovic
Putin Signals Readiness for Ceasefire in Ukraine, Sources Say to Reuters
© Carl Court / Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin is prepared to halt the war in Ukraine through an agreed ceasefire that acknowledges the current front lines, according to four Russian sources speaking to Reuters. They stated he is ready to continue fighting if Kyiv and the West do not respond.

Three sources familiar with the discussions in Putin’s inner circle said the Russian leader expressed frustration to a small group of advisers over what he sees as Western-backed attempts to stop negotiations and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s decision to exclude talks.

"Putin can fight as long as needed, but he is also ready for a ceasefire—to freeze the war," said a senior Russian source who has worked with Putin and is knowledgeable about high-level Kremlin discussions. This source, along with others quoted in this story, spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter.

Reuters spoke with a total of five people who have worked with Putin at a senior level in the political and business spheres for this report. The fifth source did not comment on freezing the war at the current front lines.

Putin’s spokesperson Dmitry Peskov, responding to a request for comment, stated that the Kremlin chief has repeatedly made it clear that Russia is open to dialogue to achieve its goals, saying the country does not want a "perpetual war." The Ukrainian Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defense did not respond to questions.

Last week’s appointment of economist Andrei Belousov as the Russian defense minister was seen by some Western military and political analysts as putting the Russian economy on a permanent wartime footing to win a prolonged conflict.

Based on their knowledge of high-level Kremlin discussions, two sources said Putin believes the gains in the current war are sufficient to present a victory to the Russian people. Three sources said Putin realized that any dramatic new advance would require another nationwide mobilization, which he did not want, and one source, familiar with the Russian president, said his popularity fell after the first mobilization in September 2022.

The national call-up frightened part of the population in Russia, leading hundreds of thousands of men of conscription age to leave the country. Polls showed Putin’s popularity dropped by several points. The prospects for a ceasefire or even peace talks currently seem remote.

Zelensky has repeatedly said that peace on Putin’s terms is not a starting point. He has vowed to retake lost territory, including Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky© Roman Pilipey / Getty Images

In 2022, he signed a decree formally declaring any talks with Putin "impossible." One of the sources predicted that no agreement could be reached while Zelensky is in power, unless Russia bypasses him and reaches a deal with Washington.

However, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, speaking in Kyiv last week, told reporters he did not believe Putin was interested in serious negotiations. Ukraine is preparing for talks hosted by Switzerland next month aimed at uniting international opinion on how to end the war.

The talks are being held at Zelensky’s initiative, who has said Putin should not attend. Switzerland has not invited Russia. Moscow has said the talks are not credible without its participation. Ukraine and Switzerland want Russia's allies, including China, to attend.

In response to questions for this story, a U.S. State Department spokesperson said any peace initiative must respect "Ukraine’s territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders" and described Russia as the only obstacle to peace in Ukraine.

"The Kremlin has yet to show any meaningful interest in ending its war, quite the opposite," the spokesperson said. Kyiv says Putin, whose team has repeatedly denied planning the war before the invasion of Ukraine in 2022, cannot be trusted to honor any agreement.

Both Russia and Ukraine have also said they fear the other side would use any ceasefire to rearm. All sources suggest that Putin would be willing to settle for the territory he now holds and freeze the conflict along the current front lines.

"Putin will say we have won, NATO attacked us and we preserved our sovereignty, we have a land corridor to Crimea, which is true," one source said, giving their own analysis. Freezing the conflict as it stands would leave Russia in possession of significant parts of four Ukrainian regions that he formally incorporated into Russia in September 2022 but without full control of any of them.

Such an arrangement would not align with the goals Moscow set for itself at that time, when it said the four Ukrainian regions—Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson—now fully belonged to Russia. Peskov said there could be no talk of returning the four regions that are now permanently part of Russia according to its own constitution.

Ukraine Russian Vladimir Putin