Military analysts told NBC News earlier this week that there was little sign the two sides were any closer to peace, with Kyiv likely emboldened to keep pushing to liberate all of its territory rather than give up occupied land in a compromise.
“It suits neither side at the moment because the Russians are confident they’ll be able to defend what they have and the Ukrainians are confident they’ll be able to take what the Russians have,” said Frank Ledwidge, a senior lecturer of law and strategy at the University of Portsmouth in the United Kingdom.
Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, described an approaching “window of opportunity for negotiation” last week, publicly voicing a position shared by some US and Western officials who increasingly believe that neither side can achieve all of their goals in the war , officials familiar with the matter told NBC News.
Kyiv does not appear to share that belief.
“Ukrainian servicemen accept no talks, no agreements or compromise decisions,” Commander-in-Chief Valery Zaluzhny wrote on Telegram late Monday after a telephone conversation with Milley.
“We will not allow Russia to wait it out, build up its forces, and then start a new series of terror and global destabilization,” Zelenskyy said in his speech to the G-20, referring to it as the “G-19” in a jab at Moscow.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who led Moscow’s delegation to the summit, countered that “all problems are on the Ukrainian side that categorically refuses to hold any talks and comes up with conditions that are obviously unrealistic and inadequate to this situation.”
Ukraine retook the city of Kherson and much of its surrounding area Friday after the Kremlin ordered a retreat, surrendering the only regional capital it had captured since launching its full-scale invasion in the latest embarrassing blow following weeks of pressure from Kyiv’s counteroffensive.
Control of the crucial southern city could serve as a gateway to the nearby Crimean Peninsula, which Russia has occupied since 2014 and Ukraine has vowed to restore its sovereignty over as part of any resolution to the fighting.
“The more Ukraine can demonstrate that it can win this war, the less will be the pressure to give in to Russia for the sake of bringing it to a premature end,” said Keir Giles, a senior consulting fellow at Chatham House, a London -based think tank. There is a growing recognition that a temporary respite from the fighting on the ground would allow Russia to regroup, he said, “and then relaunch the offensive at some future date.”
With the United States’ strategy of continuing to arm Ukraine likely intact after Democrats retained control of the Senate, analysts said, Kyiv’s forces may look to push forward and retake more territory in the coming weeks.
“They clearly have plans to keep the offensive going,” said Rajan Menon, a director at Defense Priorities, a Washington-based think tank. “It makes perfect sense” for Ukrainian forces to reach the Kinburn Peninsula south of Kherson, gaining a tactical advantage around the Black Sea, he added.
“Hard fighting does remain for Ukraine as they seek to liberate occupied territory,” a senior military official said, adding that the US and its allies would “ensure that they have what they need to succeed on the battlefield.”