Is Kyiv opening the door a crack to peace talks with Moscow?

That’s the whisper after Andriy Sybiha, a top adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky, told the Financial Times that Ukraine would be willing to discuss the future of Crimea with Russia if Ukrainian forces reach the border of the occupied peninsula.

Sybiha said: “If we will succeed in achieving our strategic goals on the battlefield and when we will be on the administrative border with Crimea, we are ready to open [a] diplomatic page to discuss this issue,” a reference to Kyiv’s long-planned counteroffensive. “It doesn’t mean that we exclude the way of liberation [of Crimea] by our army.”

It marks an apparent shift in what Kyiv would need to take part in negotiations, which it broke off in April 2022. To date, Zelensky has ruled out peace talks until all Russian forces leave Ukrainian territory.

Could the comments suggest a newfound pragmatism? The intense concentration of Russian forces in Crimea – and the expected lengths Vladimir Putin would go to defend it – mean a political settlement appears to be the only viable option at present.

Sybiha made it clear that a whole host of ifs, buts and maybes would apply. Still, it’s the firmest suggestion in months that peace talks are being seriously considered, so long as specific conditions are met. 

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