When President Vladimir V. Putin launched his invasion two weeks ago, he said a primary goal was the “denazification” of Ukraine. He referred to the Ukrainian government as a “gang of drug addicts and neo-Nazis,” making it clear that his aim was to topple it.
But in recent days, the language has shifted, with the Kremlin signaling that Mr. Putin is no longer bent on regime change in Kyiv. It is a subtle shift, and it may be a head-fake; but it is prompting officials who have scrambled to mediate to believe that Mr. Putin may be seeking a negotiated way out of a war that has become a much bloodier slog than he expected.
On Thursday, Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov of Russia is expected to meet his Ukrainian counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba, in Turkey, in the highest-level talks between the two countries since the war began on Feb. 24. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, whose top diplomat has held a total of 10 calls with Mr. Lavrov and Mr. Kuleba since the start of the war, said on Wednesday that the meeting could “crack the door open to a permanent cease-fire.”
Leading up to the meeting, both sides have softened their public positions, though they remain far apart. Russia has narrowed its demands to focus on Ukrainian “neutrality” and the status of its Russian-occupied regions, and declared on Wednesday that Russia was not seeking to “overthrow” Ukraine’s government. President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine on Tuesday suggested he was open to revising Ukraine’s constitutionally enshrined aspiration to join NATO, and even to a compromise over the status of Ukrainian territory now controlled by Russia. [Continue reading…]