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Polska Times: Russia sought Ukraine’s capitulation, not peace in 2022 talks, says Poland’s ex State Secretary

Responding to implications that Ukrainian President Zelenskyy could have prevented “tragedy” by making peace with Russia in 2022, Jakub Kumoch claimed that the Ukrainian leader could not agree to Russian demands, which, among many, included some “humiliating elements” like implementing “denazification” and introducing “the cult of the Great Patriotic War.”
Ukraine Poland relations after russian full-scale invasion ukrainian president zelenskyy polish former secretary state jakub kumoch xjakubkumoch zelensky
Ukrainian President Zelenskyy and Polish former Secretary of State Jakub Kumoch. Photo: X/@JakubKumoch
Polska Times: Russia sought Ukraine’s capitulation, not peace in 2022 talks, says Poland’s ex State Secretary

Jakub Kumoch, former Secretary of State to Polish President Andrzej Duda, revealed in an interview with Polska Times that Russia’s goal in Ukraine-Russia negotiations in 2022 was not to achieve lasting peace but to force Ukraine’s capitulation.

This news comes as the recent Foreign Affairs article suggested that Ukraine withdrew from an allegedly nearly finalized peace agreement with Russia in 2022 under Western influence. Kumoch addressed this article by mentioning that it included some narratives similar to Russian propaganda claims.

The negotiations between Ukraine and Russia took place in Belarus and Türkiye in spring 2022, soon after the start of the full-scale war. Kumoch accompanied the Ukrainian delegation during these negotiations, according to Polska Times.

Russian demands to Ukraine in a “peace agreement” in 2022

Kumoch revealed that in mid-March, the Ukrainians received a draft peace agreement from Russia, which he described as “peculiar.” The document, prepared by Russia before the invasion, according to Kumoch, included such points as:

  • recognizing Crimea’s annexation
  • granting independence to the eastern regions of Ukraine
  • limiting the size of the Ukrainian army
  • making the Russian language the second official in Ukraine
  • “eternal neutrality”
  • banning NATO membership

“There were also purely humiliating elements, such as an obligation to carry out denazification or to introduce the cult of the Great Patriotic War, as the Russians call their contribution to World War II,” Kumoch added.

Soviet historians introduced the notion of the so-called Great Patriotic War, dating between 1941 and 1945, in order to exclude the first two years of Warld War II, during which the Nazy Germany and the USSR were allies.

A Polish diplomat said the Ukrainian negotiators impressed him with their professionalism. They politely rejected the Russian demands point by point without breaking off the negotiations. 

He noted that the Ukrainians even trapped the Russians by adding a reference to the Budapest Memorandum of 1994, which Russia signed and which guaranteed Ukraine’s territorial integrity.  Kumoch revealed that the Russian negotiator replied in writing that this was unacceptable because “the borders had changed,” not providing further details.

Who guarantees Russia would not attack again? 

Kumoch suggested that had Russia proposed freezing the “Crimea issue” and withdrawing to the pre-full-scale-invasion borders, Ukraine might have considered a ceasefire. However, he stressed that without NATO membership, Ukraine would lack guarantees against future Russian aggression.

If Ukraine does not join NATO, who will guarantee that Russia will not attack Ukraine again? Since the 1994 memorandum failed and since Russia demanded a reduction in the Ukrainian army. Who will give Ukraine basic guarantees?” he said.

Kumoch firmly stated that the Ukrainian delegation never contemplated exchanging territory for peace or NATO membership during the 2022 negotiations with Russia. He noted that the Ukrainian delegation consistently adhered to the principle of border inviolability.

States that recognize each other do not attack other states with the slogan ‘if you give us part of the territory,’ there will be peace. This is not the 19th century,” he said.

Kumoch also addressed the possibility of a “Cyprus variant,” where a country has an unrecognized territorial entity within its borders, but no active conflict. However, he noted that Russia was not interested in this approach, instead demanding that Ukraine recognize Crimea and Donbas, reduce its army, and make Russian a second official language in Ukraine. 

Western media article echoing Russian propaganda narratives

Regarding the recent Foreign Affairs article, which suggested that Ukraine withdrew from a peace agreement with Russia in 2022, Kumoch noted that the article contained a document prepared by the Russian side.

“And you can see that the document contains references to the ‘Russian Federation’ and the ‘Ukrainian side’ – a typical effect of Russian propaganda, which avoids using the word ‘Ukraine,'” he said.

This article implied the narrative often spread by Russian propaganda that Zelenskyy could have spared “this tragedy” if he had made peace with Russia in 2022 and did not fall under Western influence. However, Kumoch assured that “firstly, he [Zelenskyy] could not, and secondly, no one forced him to.”

While refraining from accusing the authors of acting on behalf of Russia, Kumoch stressed that the media sometimes publishes content based on limited material and “tendentious comments.”

Polish attitude to the Russian war in Ukraine

Regarding Polish policy towards Ukraine, Kumoch asserted that it was “as realistic as possible” in 2022, focusing on supporting Ukraine’s resistance and convincing Western partners to provide weapons. 

“It is Ukraine that must decide what its victory criteria are. A simple, honest and effective policy, supported at that time by the general political class,” he concluded.

Kumoch emphasized that the concept of “nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine” was shared by the main allies. 

When asked if Russian-Ukrainian talks are impossible, he replied, “nothing is impossible.” 

“The keys to peace do not lie in Kyiv, but in Moscow. Moscow did not want lasting peace,” Kumoch said.

Earlier, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy outlined a ten-point “formula for peace” requiring Russia to withdraw its troops from Ukraine, return prisoners of war and deportees, ensure radiation, food, and energy security, restore Ukraine’s territorial integrity, pay reparations, and prevent future escalations. The plan emphasized no compromises with Russia.

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