Putin suggests G20 think about how to stop the war in Ukraine

Putin suggests G20 think about how to stop the war in Ukraine

In a surprising shift of tone, Russian President Vladimir Putin offered conciliatory remarks during a virtual meeting of the Group of Twenty (G20) on Wednesday, expressing a desire to halt the "tragedy" of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. This marks one of Putin's most pacifying statements on the matter to date, a departure from his usual combative rhetoric.

Since Russia's incursion into Ukraine in February 2022, the region has witnessed the deadliest conflict in Europe since World War Two, escalating tensions between Russia and the West to levels not seen since the Cold War. Speaking at the G20 meeting convened by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Putin acknowledged that military actions are inherently tragic and emphasized the need to find a resolution to the crisis.

"Of course, we should think about how to stop this tragedy," Putin asserted, adding that Russia has never refused peace talks with Ukraine. This conciliatory tone contrasts sharply with his previous lengthy criticisms of the United States and signals a potential shift in Russia's approach to the conflict.

Using the term "war" instead of the Kremlin's preferred designation of a "special military operation," Putin acknowledged the shocking toll of the conflict, expressing understanding for the global shock over the loss of life. He framed Russia's actions by pointing to alleged persecution of people in eastern Ukraine, dating back to the Maidan Revolution in 2014 and the annexation of Crimea.

Putin's address also ventured into international comparisons, raising questions about the perceived shock value of the conflict in Ukraine compared to other global crises. Drawing attention to events in the Gaza Strip, he questioned whether the civilian population's suffering there was not equally shocking. Putin highlighted the challenges faced by doctors in Gaza, forced to perform surgeries on children without anesthesia.

Despite Putin's seemingly conciliatory stance, the conflict in Ukraine has exacted a devastating toll, with hundreds of thousands killed or wounded and millions displaced since February 2022. The West and Ukraine remain steadfast in their commitment to defeating Russia, but concerns have arisen over the effectiveness of Ukrainian counteroffensives and the evolving strategy.

With Russia now controlling about 17.5% of Ukrainian territory, including Crimea, there is a growing divergence in the West over support for Ukraine. While U.S. President Joe Biden and other Western leaders have pledged assistance, divisions in the U.S. Congress over aid allocations have emerged, with some lawmakers prioritizing support for Israel.

The leaders of the G20 watched the changing rhetoric of the Russian president with bewilderment.

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