Putin Says Zelenskiy’s Legitimacy a Legal Obstacle in Resuming Peace Talks

Sat May 25 2024
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MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has no legitimacy after his five-year term expires, creating a legal obstacle if Russia and Ukraine resume peace talks.

With Ukraine still under martial law in the third year of a full Russian invasion, Zelenskiy has not faced elections despite his five-year term ending this week – something he and Ukraine’s allies see as the right decision to take at a time of war.

Putin is ready to end the war in Ukraine with a negotiated ceasefire that recognizes the current battle lines, media reported on Friday, citing four Russian sources, but is ready to fight on if Kiev and the West do not respond.

But Putin, in a televised press conference during a visit to Belarus, said status of Ukraine’s Zelensky was problematic.

“But who to deal with? This is not an empty question… Of course, we realize that the legitimacy of the acting head of state has ended,” he said.

Putin said the West would use next month’s Swiss conference on the war to bolster Zelenskiy’s legitimacy, but these were “PR steps” with no legal meaning.

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He said peace should be negotiated through common sense, not ultimatums. It should be based on draft documents drawn up between the two sides in the first weeks of the war and “today’s reality on the ground” – a reference to the fact that Russia controls almost 20% of Ukraine.

“If it gets to this point, of course we will have to understand who we should and can deal with in order to arrive at the signing of legally binding documents. And then we have to be absolutely sure that we are dealing with legitimate (Ukrainian) authorities,” Putin said.

Putin’s comments are likely to be seen by Ukraine and its Western allies as further evidence that he has no intention of entering peace talks, despite frequently expressing his willingness to negotiate.

Zelensky has repeatedly stated that peace under Putin’s terms is a non-starter. He vowed to regain control of lost territories, including Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014. In 2022, he signed a decree formally declaring any talks with Putin “impossible.”

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