Vladimir Putin ready to 'freeze' war in Ukraine with ceasefire recognising recent Russian gains, sources say

24 May 2024, 10:31 | Updated: 24 May 2024, 16:01

Vladimir Putin is ready to halt the war in Ukraine with a ceasefire that recognises the current battlefield lines, four Russian sources have told the Reuters news agency.

Three of the sources claimed that the Russian leader had expressed frustration about what he views as Western-backed attempts to hinder ceasefire negotiations.

"Putin can fight for as long as it takes, but Putin is also ready for a ceasefire - to freeze the war," a senior Russian source who has reportedly worked with Mr Putin and has knowledge of top-level conversations in the Kremlin, told Reuters.

The Russian president later told a press conference on Friday that peace talks with Ukraine need to be renewed, but they "must reflect realities on the ground".

Sources said freezing the conflict along current lines is a non-negotiable, as it would leave Russia in possession of substantial chunks of four Ukrainian regions, but without full control of any.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has repeatedly ruled out the possibility of a ceasefire, going so far as to sign a decree in 2022 that formally declared any talks with Mr Putin "impossible".

He reiterated this view at the beginning of the year, saying any pause in fighting would "play into [Russia's] hands" and "might crush us afterwards".

Both Mr Putin and Mr Zelenskyy also rejected a proposal put forward by French President Emmanuel Macron earlier this month, for a temporary ceasefire to be held during the Olympic Games, between 26 July-11 August.

But according to two of the sources who spoke to Reuters, Mr Putin thinks recent gains in the war are enough to sell a victory to the Russian people.

This month, Russian forces have intensified the bombardment of the southern region of Kharkiv.

The Kremlin has claimed its troops have taken control of numerous villages and cities in the area, while Ukrainian officials said troops were still in control of the majority of the territory and house-to-house fighting had been taking place.

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Mr Putin is reportedly understood to think any dramatic new advances in the country would require another nationwide mobilisation which he wants to avoid - one source pointing to the fact that his popularity dipped after the first mobilisation in September 2022.

Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told Reuters that Russia had repeatedly made clear it was open to dialogue to achieve its goals, saying the country did not want "eternal war".

But Mr Putin has already ruled out that he will attend the upcoming Ukraine Peace Summit, which is being held in Burgenstock, Switzerland, from 15-16 June - which Ukraine is keen for Russia's allies to attend.

Much of the West - including the US - does not believe Russia is interested in serious ceasefire negotiations.

A US state department spokesperson said in response to Reuters that any initiative for peace must respect Ukraine's "territorial integrity, within its internationally recognised borders".

They described Russia as the sole obstacle to peace in Ukraine.

Ukraine's foreign and defence ministries did not respond to Reuters for comment.