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ISW: Russia may use “war freeze” to prepare for new offensive against Ukraine

A new analysis suggests Russia may be feigning interest in a ceasefire to regroup for a renewed offensive in Ukraine.
Russia open to "truly serious" Ukraine peace proposals, Foreign Ministry says
The Kremlin in Moscow. Photo: Depositphotos
ISW: Russia may use “war freeze” to prepare for new offensive against Ukraine

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) reported on 24 that Western media continues to suggest Russian President Vladimir Putin is interested in a negotiated ceasefire in Ukraine.

However, according to the ISW, “Kremlin rhetoric and Russian military actions illustrate that Putin remains uninterested in meaningful negotiations and any settlement that would prevent him from pursuing the destruction of an independent Ukrainian state.”

Reuters reported on 24 May, citing four unnamed Russian sources close to Putin, that Putin is ready to negotiate a ceasefire that recognizes the current frontlines. It also stated that Putin is prepared to present the current amount of occupied Ukrainian territory as a Russian military victory to the Russian public.

However, the ISW assessed that the Kremlin routinely feigns interest in meaningful negotiations as part of a longstanding information operation. It aims “to persuade the West to make concessions on Ukrainian territorial integrity and sovereignty.”

The report notes that Putin and the Kremlin “have notably intensified their expansionist rhetoric about Ukraine since December 2023” and indicates Russia intends “to conquer more territory in Ukraine and is committed to destroying Ukrainian statehood and identity completely.”

It said Russia’s recent offensives aimed at “operationally significant advances” and the opening of a new front in Kharkiv as evidence that “the Kremlin is more interested in achieving its long-term goal of maximalist victory in Ukraine than in any settlement that would immediately freeze the frontline.”

The ISW acknowledges the contradictory nature of the Russian sources’ claims to Western media regarding Putin’s stance, saying, “These contradictions cast further doubt on the accuracy with which these Russian sources are reflecting Putin’s actual thinking.”

Other key takeaways from the report:

  • Russia is currently preparing for the possibility of a conventional war with NATO, and the Kremlin will likely view anything short of Ukrainian capitulation as an existential threat to Russia’s ability to fight such a war.
  • The Kremlin will continue to feign interest in negotiations at critical moments in the war to influence Western decision-making on support for Ukraine and to continue efforts to extract preemptive concessions from the West.
  • NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg stated on 24 May that NATO member states should consider lifting restrictions on Ukraine’s use of Western-provided weapons to strike military targets in Russia.
  • Russian forces recently advanced near Vovchansk, Svatove, Kreminna, and Donetsk City.

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