Vladimir Putin’s chief envoy on Ukraine told the Russian leader as the war began that he had struck a provisional deal with Kyiv that would satisfy Russia’s demand that Ukraine stay out of NATO, but Putin rejected it and pressed ahead with his military campaign, according to three people close to the Russian leadership.
The Ukrainian-born envoy, Dmitry Kozak, told Putin that he believed the deal he had hammered out removed the need for Russia to pursue a large-scale occupation of Ukraine, according to these sources. Kozak’s recommendation to Putin to adopt the deal is being reported by Reuters for the first time.
Putin had repeatedly asserted prior to the war that NATO and its military infrastructure were creeping closer to Russia’s borders by accepting new members from eastern Europe, and that the alliance was now preparing to bring Ukraine into its orbit too. Putin publicly said that represented an existential threat to Russia, forcing him to react.
But, despite earlier backing the negotiations, Putin made it clear when presented with Kozak’s deal that the concessions negotiated by his aide did not go far enough and that he had expanded his objectives to include annexing swathes of Ukrainian territory, the sources said. The upshot: the deal was dropped. [Continue reading…]