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Behind-the-Scenes Diplomacy: EU and US Initiate Peace Talks with Ukraine Amid Ongoing Russian Conflict

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, right, and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen smile during their meeting in Kyiv, Ukraine, on September 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

Government representatives from the US and Europe have begun discreet discussions with Ukrainian authorities over potential steps to settle the conflict with Russia.

The negotiations coincided with the announcement that 14 people had been injured in Russian attacks and the arrival in Kyiv on Saturday of Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Union’s executive body, for talks regarding Ukraine’s potential membership in the EU with President Volodymyr Zelensky.

As 26 cities saw intense fire throughout the course of the previous day, nine people were injured in a Russian rocket strike on the village of Zarichne, according to Yuri Malshko, the governor of the province in southeast Zaporizhzhia.

Five individuals were injured in the nearby Kherson district, according to Governor Oleksandr Prokudin.

He said that artillery, mortars, drones, bombers, and tanks were among the attack methods used in the region.

The two provinces serve as a vital land corridor connecting Russia’s eastern frontlines with Crimea, and they are among the territories that Russia claims as its own.

US sources told NBC News that discussions to end the war between Russia and Ukraine included extremely general descriptions of what Ukraine could have to give up in order to achieve a settlement.

According to sources, the talks represent an acknowledgement of the political and military realities in the United States and Europe.

They started because authorities from the United States and Europe were worried about the possibility of continuing to help Ukraine and that the fight had come to a standstill. According to insiders, the Biden administration is also concerned that Russia appears to have an infinite supply of forces, while Ukraine is running out of them. Additionally, having trouble filling positions, President Volodymyr Zelensky’s open-ended conscription requirements have lately sparked public demonstrations in Ukraine.

Additionally, the individuals stated that the U.S. administration is uneasy about how little public attention the war in Ukraine has received since the Israel-Hamas conflict started about a month ago. Officials worry that this change may make it harder to get more funding for Kyiv.

The ongoing conflict in Ukraine has been referred to by some U.S. military officials as a “stalemate” in private; they speculate that the outcome may depend on who can sustain a military force for the longest. On the battlefield, neither side is making much progress; some American officials now refer to the conflict as a “war of inches.”

The National Security Council’s spokesman, Adrienne Watson, stated in a statement that Ukraine makes all decisions about negotiations. “Our primary goal is to maintain our unwavering support for Ukraine as they fight Russian aggression for their independence and freedom.”

Although the United States and Ukraine have discussed the framework for their peace conference, an administration official said that the White House “is not aware of any other conversations with Ukraine about negotiations at the moment.”

Some of the discussions, which authorities told the outlet were “delicate,” happened last month during a gathering of delegates from more than 50 nations that support Ukraine, according to the article.

The negotiations are taking place while the Biden administration is requesting from Congress permission to spend more money on military assistance to Ukraine.

According to the White House’s most recent request, Israel and Ukraine both have military support.

Some Republicans have expressed support for the combined request, while others have stated that they will only support Israel. The House passed a $14.3 million aid package for Israel on Thursday, but the Senate is unlikely to approve it since it does not exclude funds for Ukraine.

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine started in February 2022, the Biden administration has spent $43.9 billion on security support, and $5 billion more remains before funding runs out.

US officials stated that there is no sign that Russian President Vladimir Putin is open to negotiating a peace agreement, even in light of the continuing negotiations with Ukraine.

According to NBC, Putin still believes he can “wait out the West” or continue fighting until internal US support for the conflict wanes.

On Saturday, Von der Leyen, on her sixth visit to the capital of Ukraine, tweeted that the main topics of discussion will be Ukraine’s EU membership and “how we will continue to make Russia pay for its war of aggression.”

According to two U.S. officials, the Biden administration has not received any signal that Russian President Vladimir Putin is prepared to hold negotiations with Ukraine. According to Western sources, Putin still thinks he can “wait out the West” or continue fighting until the fight to provide Kyiv with guns and ammunition becomes too expensive or the United States and its allies lose domestic support for backing Ukraine.

Russia and Ukraine are having difficulty keeping up with military supplies. According to a Western official, Russia has increased its output of artillery rounds and might be able to generate 2 million shells annually over the next few years. However, the official stated that Russia shot an estimated 10 million rounds into Ukraine last year, so it will also need to rely on other nations.

“I have to admit that you have advanced rather well. After the meeting with Zelensky, von der Leyen said, “This is impressive to see.”

“We must never forget that you are radically reforming your nation while simultaneously waging an existential war.”

“Sanctions will be implemented until peace is achieved,” she declared.

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