Following the successful counteroffensive of the Ukrainian army in Kharkiv Oblast, Russia’s leadership has begun to realize the impossibility of annexing occupied Ukrainian territory, independent Russian news outlet Meduza reported on Sept. 16, citing sources in the Kremlin.
Allegedly, Russian dictator Vladimir Putin’s inner circle “does not understand what to do next”, since it’s impossible to hold even fake referendums on “joining” Russia, in conditions when the Russian army either withdraws from previously captured areas or is on the defensive, Meduza journalists write.
Sergei Kiriyenko, the Kremlin official seemingly in charge of the occupied territories, is said to be “frustrated” by this turn of events.
According to one of the Meduza’s sources, pseudo-referendums were "an understandable goal", but now contracts with political experts who prepared the sham referendums in Kharkiv and Zaporizhzhia oblasts are "suspended until spring."
“Meduza’s sources close to the Kremlin note that this happened not only due to the situation at the front, but also to the uncertainty of the Kremlin’s position on the resumption of negotiations with Ukraine, which were interrupted back in March,” the article says.
According to journalists, some members of Russia's Security Council called on Putin to return to negotiations, but their proposals have so far been ignored. At the same time, according to another source, Putin’s mind has begun to change on the subject of negotiations following Ukraine’s liberation of Kharkiv Oblast.
Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration Olha Stefanishyna said earlier that Russia has repeatedly offered to resume negotiations, but in today's realities, it no longer can dictate any conditions for doing so.
“There were public and non-public attempts from various groups of Russian officials,” she explained.
“Ukraine has never retreated from negotiations. But given the severity of the crimes that Russia has committed on our soil and continues to commit every month, the leverage for negotiations is different from those in February.
At the same time, presidential advisor Mykhailo Podolyak stressed that for the time being negotiation “is not on the agenda”, since Moscow is now “unable to negotiate”.
The Kremlin also understands they shouldn't expect negotiations in the near future, Meduza claims.
“Negotiations are unnecessary for Ukraine - they have a victory,” said one of the publication’s sources.
“Russia now has a weak negotiating position as its goals have not been achieved. The territory of the “DPR” has not been taken, and such conditions are “unacceptable” for Putin, since he would like to maintain control at least over the previously occupied territories of Donbas, and doesn’t want to discuss Crimea at all.”