Ukrainian officials angrily rebuff suggestions that Kyiv should cede territory to Russia in an effort to secure a peace deal.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy angrily denounced suggestions that Ukraine should cede control of territory to Russia in order to reach a peace agreement, comparing such a move with the appeasement of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany.
Those “great geopoliticians” who suggest this are disregarding the interests of ordinary Ukrainians – “the millions of those who actually live on the territory that they propose exchanging for an illusion of peace”, Zelenskyy said late on Wednesday in his nightly video address to the nation.
The comments came as Ukrainian troops face a renewed offensive in two eastern regions that Russian-speaking separatists seized part of in 2014.
The New York Times editorial board said on May 19 a negotiated peace might require Kyiv to make some hard decisions, given a decisive military victory was not realistic.
And former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger this week suggested at the World Economic Forum in Davos that Ukraine should let Russia keep Crimea, which it annexed in 2014.
“Whatever the Russian state does, you will always find someone who says, ‘let’s take its interests into account’,” Zelenskyy said.
“In Davos, for example, Mr Kissinger has emerged from the deep past and said that part of Ukraine should be given to Russia to avoid the alienation of Russia from Europe. It seems that Mr Kissinger has 1938 on the calendar instead of 2022 and he thought that he was addressing the audience in Munich of those times, instead of the audience in Davos.”
In 1938, Britain, France, Italy and Germany signed a pact in Munich that gave Hitler land in the then Czechoslovakia as part of a failed attempt to persuade him to abandon further territorial expansion.
“Symptomatic editorials have also emerged in some Western media saying that Ukraine must accept so-called difficult compromises by ceding its territory in exchange for peace. Perhaps, the New York Times wrote something similar in 1938. But let me remind you that now is still the year 2022,” said Zelenskyy.
Italy and Hungary have urged the European Union to call explicitly for a ceasefire in Ukraine and peace talks with Russia, putting themselves at odds with other member states determined to take a hard line with Moscow.
Earlier, in an expletive-filled tirade, Zelenskyy adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said some European nations clearly wanted Ukraine to make concessions to Putin.
“No one is going to trade a gram of our sovereignty or a millimetre of our territory,” he said in video remarks posted online. “Our children are dying, soldiers are being blown apart by shells, and they tell us to sacrifice territory. Get lost. It’s never going to happen.”
Russia’s foreign ministry spokeswoman earlier said an Italian peace plan for Ukraine was a “fantasy”.
“You can’t supply Ukraine with weapons with one hand and come up with plans for a peaceful resolution of the situation with the other,” Maria Zakharova said at her weekly briefing, referring to the Italian initiative.
Italian foreign minister Luigi Di Maio gave the broad outlines of the plan last week. The Kremlin said on Tuesday it had not seen the initiative but hoped to receive it through diplomatic channels.
Zakharova said of the reported proposal: “If they hope that the Russian Federation will seize on any Western plan, then they haven’t understood much.”
Zelenskyy said his army was facing the fiercest attack yet by Russian forces, who in some places have many more weapons and soldiers. He pleaded for even more military assistance from the West, “without exception and restrictions. Enough to win.”