Zelensky outlines Ukraine's peace-talk demands for Russia
Ukraine will only reenter peace talks with Russia if the Kremlin guarantees the restoration of preinvasion borders and returns thousands of Ukrainians who were forcefully evacuated to Russia, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Friday.
Why it matters: Zelensky left open the possibility of a peace settlement and said "not all the bridges are destroyed" between Russia and Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin has previously promised to continue Russia's unprovoked invasion "until its full completion."
- Zelensky's requirements for a peace settlement directly conflict with Russia's stated military goals for its invasion, which includes full control of southern Ukraine and the country's Donbas region.
What they're saying: During an online forum organized by the British think tank Chatham House, Zelensky said Ukraine seeks membership in the European Union and accountability for war crimes committed throughout the invasion.
- In his nightly address on Friday, Zelensky asked citizens to respect air raid sirens, local curfews and bans on entering forests previously occupied by Russia over fears of mines or other traps left behind by Russian troops.
- “I ask all our citizens — especially these days — not to ignore the air raid sirens. Please, this is your life, the life of your children," he said.
The big picture: Since withdrawing forces away from northern Ukraine, Russia has shifted toward assaulting the Donbas region. So far, its progress there has been "minimal at best," according to assessments by U.S. defense officials, Axios' Zachary Basu reports.
- It has suffered from poor command and control, low morale and recurring logistical problems. At the same time, Ukraine has launched several fierce counteroffensives, particularly near Kharkiv — Ukraine's second-largest city.
- Some experts believe Putin's speech during Russia's Victory Day celebration on May 9, which commemorates the Soviet Union's defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945, will give a clear glimpse into whether he seeks to escalate or deescalate the invasion.
- Some expect Putin to officially declare war against Ukraine and mobilize hundreds of thousands of reservists, though it's unclear if Russia has the capacity to effectively support such as massive force.