The Russians are showing signs of being willing to engage in substantive negotiations over Ukraine, even as they are intent on “destroying” their neighbor, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said on Sunday.
Sherman, in an interview with “Fox News Sunday,” said the United States is putting “enormous pressure” on Russian President Vladimir Putin to permit humanitarian corridors to help civilians escape the conflict in Ukraine.
“That pressure is beginning to have some effect. We are seeing some signs to have real, serious negotiations. But I have to say … so far it appears Vladimir Putin is intent on destroying Ukraine,” Sherman said.
Russian hints about possible negotiations were not elaborated by Sherman. Meanwhile, Russian and Ukrainian officials gave upbeat assessments of progress in talks earlier on Sunday, saying results could be achieved within days.
White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan echoed the alarming assessment of Putin’s intentions, telling CNN: “As things stand right now, Vladimir Putin does not look like he is prepared to stop the onslaught” against Ukraine.
John Kirby, Pentagon spokesperson, said he did not believe a NATO-imposed no-fly zone over Ukraine could have prevented the Russian attack on a military base near Poland’s border.
According to him, a no-fly zone may sound like a good idea in terms of air policing, but it could lead to war between Russia and the United States.
“I can see no reason for this war to escalate between two nuclear powers,” Kirby told ABC’s “This Week.”
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba appealed again to NATO nations to deliver fighter aircraft.
“The highest demand is in planes, in fighting, fighting jets, in attack aircraft…this is the most pressing issue,” Kuleba said in an interview with CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
Sullivan and Sherman were asked, however, why the Biden administration did not facilitate the transfer of Polish jets to Ukraine, saying that Ukraine needed other military equipment.
Zelensky said earlier Saturday that “at present it’s not constructive to hold meetings in Russia, Ukraine, or Belarus. These are not the places where we can agree to stop the war… Do I consider Israel, Jerusalem in particular, to be such a place? I think the answer is yes.”
Although Russia hasn’t ruled out holding negotiations in Jerusalem, the diplomatic source said, Israel isn’t sure whether it should be the host.
“We know from our experience that negotiations that don’t have a chance lead to a worse situation on the ground,” the source said.
“We have to see if we can really be helpful,” the source added. “If there can be a breakthrough, we’ll do anything.”
With regard to the mediation between Russia and Ukraine being handled by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, “we aren’t forcing anything,” the source said.
According to reports, Bennett told Zelensky to accept Russian President Vladimir Putin’s offer to end the war. Kyiv and Jerusalem both denied that report.
“People need to understand that we will never pressure Zelensky in either direction,” the source said. “It’s the wrong thing to do…The President of Ukraine and the Ukrainians have to make the decision, and they will have our support.”
“This isn’t Bennett’s initiative,” the source said, adding that Zelensky contacted Bennett on Saturday and has long sought Israel’s mediation.
Bennett says he will always answer Zelensky’s phone calls and try to help if he is able, according to the source.
As an indication that Ukraine and Russia are gradually moving in the direction of an agreement, the source cited recent statements made by Zelensky that he was willing to give up on Ukraine’s attempt to join NATO and Russia’s refusal to require Ukraine to fully demilitarize- which shows that they are not trying to bring Ukraine to its knees.