It is difficult to get a true account of what is actually happening in Ukraine. Casualty numbers from both sides should be taken with a grain of salt — as should both sides’ claims of atrocities. No doubt, atrocities are occurring, as they do in every conflict; it is the scale at which they are happening which is unknown. One thing that is certain is that Ukraine is winning the propaganda war.
From the very beginning, the Ukrainians were able to garner massive international support with their social media campaigns. Snake Island and the Ghost of Kiev were morale-boosting stories that later turned out to be untrue. That is why it is difficult to judge the latest statements from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
He recently told an Italian broadcaster that he was willing to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin for peace talks with the aim to end the war. It is difficult to know if this is a real offer, or one simply done for propaganda purposes.
There have been ongoing peace talks since almost the beginning of the conflict, with mixed results. At the end of April, Zelensky said the talks were collapsing.
If western accounts are to be believed, the Russian army is close to collapsing and is retreating. If this were true, why would Zelensky push for peace? Putin is not going to give back the gains that he has in the southern portion of Ukraine, with Russia likely seeking a land bridge to occupied Crimea. Can Zelensky claim a win if he must give up the entire southern region of Ukraine?
It is possible that direct peace talks would be a move to buy time for the United States to complete its $40 billion aid package. Russia seems open to Putin participating in a meeting, if terms can be determined beforehand. Zelensky knows this as well. There is nothing to be lost in claiming to be open to a meeting, knowing that the Russians won’t agree without terms and then making sure terms are not met. Given Ukraine’s propaganda history and the parade of Western politicians visiting Kiev promising billions, peace is unlikely to come soon.