Zelensky had called the Chinese plan for peace in Ukraine “a first step.” However, in the context of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s three-day visit to Moscow, the Ukrainian leadership no longer seems so optimistic – while the U.S. is keen on discrediting the prospect of an understanding being reached between the two leaders.
The secretary of the National Security Council in Kiev, Oleksiy Danilov, wrote the following in a tweet: “The formula for the successful implementation of China’s peace plan. The first and main point is the surrender or withdrawal of the Russian occupation troops from the territory of Ukraine in accordance with the norms of international law, the UN Charter. In order to restore sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.” In short, Russian surrender or withdrawal is non-negotiable.
On Monday, Zelensky’s presidential adviser Mikhailo Podolyak also reiterated the Kiev line in a tweet:
“The legal fixation [sic] of the ‘RF’s current president’ as an obvious international criminal directly means:
1. No negotiations with the current ru-elite
2. No return of RF to world politics in its pre-war status
3. No lifting of sanctions as long as the “face of Putin” represents RF.”
On the other side of the debate was only Oleh Nikolenko, spokesman for the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry, who said that “we expect that Beijing […] will use its influence on Moscow in order to make it stop the war and return to respect for the UN Charter and international law.”
The United Kingdom took a similar line: through the words of a Downing Street spokesperson, London said it was hoping “So we hope President Xi uses this opportunity to press President Putin to cease bombing Ukrainian cities, hospitals, schools, and to halt some of these atrocities that we are seeing on a daily basis.”
However, Danilov and Podolyak’s positions are symptomatic of the Ukrainian administration’s annoyance with what is happening in Moscow. For days, Xi Jinping and Putin have been putting on an unprecedented show of closeness. The Chinese president even went so far as to publish an editorial in the Russian newspaper Gazeta Russkaya in which he praised “the friendship between the Russian and Chinese peoples,” and on Monday his Russian counterpart responded to him publicly by calling him “dear friend.”
This lovefest is the cause of the bitter attitude coming from the U.S. these days, as it is why Washington feels (perhaps for the first time) that it’s possible that another actor might meddle in its management of the timing of the conflict.
“A ceasefire called right now would basically just ratify Russia’s conquest and give Mr. Putin more time to really equip and retrain and restart operations at a time and a place of his choosing,” U.S. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told CNN. Kirby also stressed that the White House would “reject” any cease-fire demands that might emerge from the meeting scheduled for Tuesday afternoon, also reiterating that it would be “in China’s best interest” to supply arms to Ukraine.
Moreover, “if you’re going to go to Moscow, and you’re going to sit down for three days with President Putin, and you’re going to get his perspective on a war that he started, and that he could finish today. You ought to pick up the phone at the very least, and talk to President Zelensky and get the Ukrainian perspective here,” Kirby added.
In answer to a question about this proposal by reporters present at the Moscow meeting, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov was irked: “Are you seriously asking Putin’s spokesman about this? You’re asking the wrong person.”
On Monday, the U.S. Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, gave a warning that “the world should not be fooled” by the Putin-Xi summit; however, Washington stressed that the upcoming visit of U.S. representatives to China would still take place, as it was deemed important to keep the channels of communication with Beijing open. In the evening, the White House clarified that President Biden and Xi Jinping will have a conversation “at the appropriate time”; that is, when the Chinese leader returns from Moscow.