Vladimir Putin’s chief envoy on Ukraine told the Russian leader days after the war began that he had struck a provisional deal with Kyiv that would satisfy Russia’s demand that Ukraine stay out of NATO, but Putin rejected it and continued with his military campaign, according to a report by Reuters.
The Ukrainian-born envoy, Dmitry Kozak, told Putin that he believed the deal he had hammered out with the Ukranian government removed the need for Russia to pursue a large-scale occupation of Ukraine, three people close to the Russian leadership who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the publication.
Before the war, Putin had repeatedly asserted that NATO and its military infrastructure were creeping closer to Russia’s borders by accepting new members from eastern Europe, and that the alliance was now preparing to bring Ukraine into its command. Putin publicly said that represented an existential threat to Russia, which forced him to launch the war.
But, despite earlier being in support of negotiations between Ukraine and Russia, Putin made it clear when presented with Kozak’s deal that the concessions negotiated by his aide did not go far enough and that he had expanded his objectives to include annexing large portions of Ukrainian territory and even toppling the Ukranian government, Reuters reports.
Responding to the report,Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied it: “That has absolutely no relation to reality. No such thing ever happened. It is absolutely incorrect information.”
Two of the three sources said a push to get the deal finalized occurred immediately after Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion. Within days, Kozak believed he had Ukraine’s agreement to the main terms Russia had been seeking and recommended to Putin that he sign an agreement, the sources said.
“After Feb. 24, Kozak was given carte blanche: they gave him the green light; he got the deal. He brought it back and they told him to clear off. Everything was cancelled. Putin simply changed the plan as he went along,” said one of the sources close to the Russian leadership.
Moscow’s offensive in Ukraine is the largest military campaign in Europe since World War II. It prompted sweeping economic sanctions against Russia and military support for Ukraine from Washington and its Western allies.