Stock photo: Getty Images

Stock photo: Getty Images

Ukrayinska Pravda: Russian President Vladimir Putin has been sending signals through intermediaries since at least September that he is ready to agree to a ceasefire in the war of aggression against Ukraine, which would include freezing hostilities on the current contact line, as the European Pravda reports, citing the New York Times.

The newspaper claims to have learnt this information from two former senior Russian officials close to the Kremlin, as well as US and international officials.

US officials believe Putin had already made attempts to negotiate a ceasefire a year earlier, in the autumn of 2022. His previously unknown intentions emerged after Ukraine defeated the Russian forces in the northeast. At the time, Putin indicated his satisfaction with the territories that Russia had captured and was ready for a truce, the newspaper's sources noted.

However, Putin is now deploying fiery public rhetoric that Russia's goals in the war have not changed while privately indicating his desire to "declare victory and move on."

Western officials have been receiving new signals since at least September that Putin appears to be interested in a ceasefire. The messages come through several channels, including foreign governments with ties to both the United States and Russia.

"They (the Russians) say, ‘We are ready to have negotiations on a cease-fire’… They want to stay where they are on the battlefield," said one senior international official who met with Russian officials this autumn.

However, some US officials suggest that this may be a typical misleading attempt by the Kremlin and that it does not reflect Putin's genuine willingness to compromise. Former Russian officials add that Putin may well change his mind again if Russian troops gain momentum.

"He really is willing to stop at the current positions… He’s not willing to retreat one meter," said one former senior Russian official, echoing a message he believes the Kremlin is tacitly sending.

Current and former officials say Putin is considering a confluence of factors that create a favourable moment for a deal: a stalemated battlefield, the aftermath of Ukraine's failed offensive, weak support for Kyiv in the West, and the distraction from the Russo-Ukrainian war due to the situation in the Gaza Strip.

Publicly, Putin has maintained his aggressive stance, claiming that he is confronting the West, which is seeking to destroy the "millennia-old Russian civilisation".

However, US officials see a shift in Putin's stance, noting that he is no longer demanding the resignation of the Zelenskyy government. They claimed that the ceasefire Putin is proposing would preserve a sovereign Ukraine with Kyiv as its capital but leave Russia in control of nearly 20% of the Ukrainian territory it has managed to occupy.

The US sources added that while Putin has signalled that he is open to such a deal, he is waiting for a more concrete proposal.

One of many likely stumbling blocks is Putin's determination to prevent Ukraine from joining NATO. Nevertheless, one former Russian official noted that disagreements over this issue would not be a reason for Putin not to negotiate, as the Alliance is not expected to accept Ukraine into its ranks in the foreseeable future.

However, senior US officials expressed their doubts that any prominent Ukrainian politician could agree to a deal that would cede that much Ukrainian territory to Russia.

The ceasefire is viewed with scepticism by many in the West, who believe Putin is rearming for a future attack.

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