Washington Post via MSN
The mounting death toll in Ukraine has forced President Volodymyr Zelensky to consider concessions to Russia in order to bring an end to the devastating conflict, but the specific elements of any peace deal his government may be discussing with Moscow remain a mystery to Western leaders, said U.S. and European officials. The secretive rounds of meetings between Russian and Ukrainian negotiators could hold the key to ending the conflict but also carry broader implications for European security depending on how the warring parties settle their differences. If Russian President Vladimir Putin can use military force to compel political change in Ukraine, he could use the same tactic elsewhere, U.S. and European officials fear. The prospects of a near-term deal look bleak, diplomats say, but mixed signals from Zelensky about how close he is to striking an agreement have only heightened anxiety about the trajectory of the negotiations. Russia has sought to pummel Ukraine into submission through artillery barrages, cruise missile strikes and a severing of supply routes that have prompted a humanitarian disaster and forced more than 3 million people to flee the country. Zelensky, however, has remained defiant, saying his country wants peace — but not at any cost.