Vladimir Putin Has Only One Option Left But Won’t Accept It, Says Ukraine: NPR


People look at destroyed Russian military vehicles on display in central Kyiv on a snowy afternoon in the capital on January 9.

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People look at destroyed Russian military vehicles on display in central Kyiv on a snowy afternoon in the capital on January 9.

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In Ukraine, the weekend has come and gone – with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s self-declared ceasefire.

Except there was actually no sign of a ceasefire. Instead, Russia and Ukraine accused the other of continuing to launch attacks.

Ukraine had never agreed to a ceasefire, arguing that it was just a Russian excuse to regroup. So where are things at, both on the battlefield and on the diplomatic front?

All things Considered Host Mary Louise Kelly talks to Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba about the so-called ceasefire, what options Putin has left and what now counts as a victory for Ukraine.

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Interview Highlights

On the non-ceasefire this weekend

Well, those are two big Russian lies. The one on the ceasefire works – it’s not just the Ukrainian government that denies this allegation. It is also the international media present on the ground in Kramatorsk, which immediately went to the places where alleged Russian missiles would have hit the dormitories of Ukrainian soldiers. And that didn’t happen. So that’s just a–another proof never to trust anything Russians say.


Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba speaks at a meeting of the United Nations Security Council last September.

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Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba speaks at a meeting of the United Nations Security Council last September.

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On Vladimir Putin’s strategy and how it has evolved over the past year

Oh, I think we were–we miscalculated. As he was pulling this whole army to the border of Ukraine. Deep down he made the decision that he was going to invade and he was preparing the ground for that invasion. But, you know, we look back in this situation, and now we can understand the sequence and the logic of his actions. Things weren’t as clear as they seem now… If I look at the battlefield and the situation now, I think Putin doesn’t have too many options.

Actually, I think he only has one option, but he doesn’t want to accept it. And that option is to lose the war. The difficulty and tragedy of this moment is that he is unwilling to face the truth and seek the exit. Instead, he throws more and more resources and, above all, human resources into the battle, trying to win at all costs. But that won’t happen. He’s not going to win.

On what counts as a victory for Ukraine

Well, the first point is the restoration of the territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders.

For us, there is no difference between Crimea and Donbass. There is no difference between Kherson and Simferopol or Yalta, cities of Crimea… [Crimea is] just another part of Ukraine that was stolen by Russia.

As simple as that. And yes, we are talking about restoring the territorial integrity of Ukraine, including every square centimeter of our soil … We must always remember that the probability of Ukraine surviving the Russian invasion and the probability that you and I were talking about in January 2023 was even less likely and even lower than the one you mentioned… Ukraine even exceeded its own expectations.


People walk in the town of Kupyansk which was regularly bombarded by the Russians on January 6.

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People walk in the town of Kupyansk which was regularly bombarded by the Russians on January 6.

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On any signs that Russia might be willing to negotiate

Not at this stage. In fact, we see that they reject the peace formula proposed by President Zelensky. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep trying. We must also pursue a diplomatic process. And here is what President Zelenskyy proposed: The formula for peace consisting of 10 simple steps. Some of them require Russian participation, others do not. Russia may like it or not like it, but it is about building a coalition – a coalition of countries that are ready to seek a diplomatic solution along the lines proposed by President Zelenskyy.

Why U.S. Aid to Ukraine Should Continue

Because if Ukraine loses, the world – in which the United States plays such an important role – will begin to crumble. Because if Ukraine loses, countries – some malicious actors around the world – will prefer to go the Russian way and take the same risks: invade, commit atrocities, destroy trade.

And that is all the United States has stood for in decades and centuries of foreign policy.

It is up to the US government and Ukraine’s other partners to decide how long they will support us. But we made our choice, we made the decision. We will fight an invader as long as we can breathe.

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