Russian President Vladimir Putin has revealed the Kremlin will likely need to reach an agreement with Ukraine regarding the ongoing war between the two countries, adding he feels betrayed by the breakdown of the Minsk agreements. While speaking at the same press conference, he also acknowledged a number of issues currently facing the Russian military.
Putin’s words came after former German chancellor Angela Merkel gave an interview to Die Zeit magazine, in which she said that the Minsk agreement had been drawn up to “give Ukraine time” to build up its defenses.
The Minsk agreements were designed to end the conflict raging in the Donbas between Ukrainian forces, the Russian military and Russian-backed separatists. The initial draft, known as the Minsk Protocol, was drawn up in 2014, but failed to stop the fighting. As such, it was replaced the following year by the Minsk II agreements, which included a number of measures.
The conditions listed out in the Minsk II agreements included a ceasefire between both sides, the release of prisoners of war (POWs), the withdrawal of heavy weaponry from the frontlines, restoring the Ukrainian government’s control of the border and granting self-government to areas of the Donbas.
While the fighting did subside for a period of time, it didn’t fully stop, and not all of the provisions were completely implemented. Putin declared the Minsk agreements “no longer exist” on February 22, 2022, just one day after the Kremlin recognized the Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics. Two days later, Russian forces launched their invasion of Ukraine.
At a press conference in Kyrgyzstan on December 9, 2022, Putin shared that he was “disappointed” by Merkel’s comments, and added that, while he’s aware a deal between Ukraine and Russia will likely be required to end the ongoing war, he feels cheated by the failure of the Minsk agreements and is therefore weary about making another deal.
“Negotiations will have to be made,” the Russian president said, adding that the assessment comes as a result of “the realities that are taking shape on the ground” and that “now there is a question of trust, it is already almost at zero. I have said many times that we are ready for agreements, we are open, but this makes us think about who we are dealing with.”
This was one of the first times Putin has publicly spoken about a potential peace deal with Ukraine. Just a few days prior, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov had said the outcome of the Russo-Ukrainian War should be a “just and durable peace.”
Putin had previously said that, in order for him to call off the invasion, Ukraine would have to agree to neutrality and commit to demilitarization. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy rejected these terms, with the country’s government demanding the return of all Ukrainian territory that’s been annexed by Russia, including Crimea.
The Russian president’s stance has since changed slightly. Last month, he demanded the West formally recognize the four regions Russia has since annexed – Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia – before peace talks can move forward.
At the same press conference, Putin admitted that the media reports regarding issues with the procurement of equipment and clothes for conscripted troops were true, but have since begun to ease. He also added that there currently isn’t a need to call up additional soldiers to fight in Ukraine, as 150,000 conscripts have yet to be sent to the frontlines.
While he’s publicly stated an additional group of conscripted soldiers won’t be needed, there are fears a second round could be announced, given the Kremlin’s refusal to rescind the official decree regarding Russia’s partial mobilization.