The Kremlin’s Call for Peace Is Still Masking a Bloody Empire

We examine the major disinfo narratives claiming that Russia wants peace. In fact, war has become an almost desired state of affairs for Putin. Since the very beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022, the Kremlin has tried to pretend that someone else was doing the invading. For example, a year after that invasion, Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed that the West somehow started the war. Pro-Russian outlets also routinely assert that Ukraine is nothing more than a Western weapon against Russia and that the country itself does not exist. And if Ukraine does not exist, how could Russia have invaded it?

By EUvsDisinfo | March 28, 2024 —

Does Russia wants peace?

Russian state and pro-Kremlin outlets have also tried to conjure an alternative reality in which Russia is interested in peace, but Ukraine and the West are determined to wage war. Below, we examine the major narratives that Putin’s disinformation peddlers have pushed about the search for peace in Ukraine.

The West prevents peace: We’ll always have Istanbul

The most widespread family of falsehoods claims that the West has prevented and is preventing Ukraine from engaging in good-faith peace negotiations with Russia. This accusation has several variants. Outlets have alleged that the EU doesn’t want peace, but only Russia’s total defeat. They have also described Western countries, and especially the US, as eager to make money from weapons sales to Ukraine and other countries and portrayed arms deliveries to Ukraine as benefitting ‘arms dealers’.

The Kremlin’s call for peace is still masking a bloody empire — EUvsDiSiNFO

In particular, the Kremlin and even Putin himself regularly showcase the claim that Ukraine was on verge of signing a peace deal with Russia in March 2022 during negotiations in Turkey, but the West stepped in to scuttle it. In particular, outlets have focussed on then-UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s visit to Kyiv on 9 April as a pretext to allege that Johnson ‘ordered’ the Ukrainian government not to make peace. In addition, disinfo peddlers have cited an interview with Davit Arakhamia, the leader of the Ukraine ruling party’s parliamentary group, who supposedly said that Johnson told Ukrainian leaders ‘to just fight’.

Enter Bucha

The truth is very different. Ukrainian and Russian negotiators appeared to make some modest progress towards a deal in March 2022, with the understanding that talks would continue. But as Wall Street Journal journalist Yaroslav Trofimov has written, the turning point came as the Russian army, having met ferocious resistance from Ukrainian troops, retreated from areas around Kyiv. As they left, video and photographic evidence emerged in early April revealing the Bucha massacre. Trofimov writes, ‘What the Ukrainians discovered there rendered moot any understanding reached in Istanbul.’ Several other sites were discovered where atrocities had been committed by the occupying Russian forces.

Regarding the Arakhamia interview , the man himself has denied that the Ukrainian delegation was ready to sign anything or that Boris Johnson stopped them from doing so. According to him, Ukraine’s Western partners ‘did not make decisions on behalf of Ukraine and could only give advice.’ The primary reason that peace negotiations sputtered was Ukrainian fury at events in Bucha and the realisation that the Russians intended nothing less than cultural if not literal genocide.

Goodwill gesture for peace

Kremlin claims about the March 2022 negotiations are also tied up with another Putin-spread(opens in a new tab) falsehood: that the Russian army withdrawal from Kyiv and northern Ukraine in late March 2022 was not a humiliating retreat, but a ‘goodwill gesture(opens in a new tab)’ intended to spur negotiations. This laughably self-serving claim is closely tied to the fable that Russia is a misunderstood peacemaker and often appears alongside it.

Peace behind the backs of Ukrainians

Lately, however, a contradictory narrative has also begun to spread. This one alleges that rather than being rabid militants chao-spreaders, Western leaders are tired of war. So, they are preparing to negotiate with Russia while abandoning Ukraine. They are even getting ready to force Ukraine to the negotiating table. The likely purpose of this narrative is to demoralise Ukrainians. Towards that end, belligerent Westerners can suddenly become accommodating.

Blessed are the aggressors

While blaming the West, Kremlin apologists also spread a series of supportive narratives. The most prominent portrays Russia as the embodiment of rationality that is ready to make peace ‘on its terms’. We have written before that such overtures, when examined, reveal themselves to be demands for Ukraine’s surrender. Pro-Russian outlets particularly like to air this claim through the mouths of Kremlin-friendly Westerners, highlighting their comments whenever possible.

In addition, Russian leaders want you to believe that Ukrainian leaders, in contrast to Russia, are unreasonable fantasists who reject peace. Outlets and commentators focus their ire in particular on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his peace proposals, claiming that the ‘Zelenskyy formula’ for peace is ‘a figment of a sick imagination’.

Split the society: “the ordinary Ukrainian wants peace”

Finally, Russian state and pro-Kremlin outlets like to pretend that, despite the policies of their bellicose leaders, ordinary Ukrainians and Westerners desperately want peace, even if on the Kremlin’s terms. One particularly noxious piece of disinformation showcased the families of Ukrainian prisoners of war urging authorities to expedite the return of their loved ones from capture while accompanying the images with misleading commentary asserting that ‘ordinary Ukrainians stand for peace and early negotiations with Russia’.

Other articles used cherrypicked poll results to argue that Western support for Ukraine is slipping. For example, a piece in Sputnik Globe referred to a poll conducted by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs to emphasise that 45 per cent of Americans think that military aid to Ukraine has not been worth the cost, while 53 per cent say it has. True. But the piece does not mention that the same survey found that 63 per cent of Americans support sending additional arms and military supplies to Ukraine.

MAD – Russian nuclear sabre-rattling

The frequent Russian nuclear sabre-rattling goes in the same direction of ‘appealing’ to the senses of ordinary Westerners but is built on scaremongering. Coerce the Western populations with fear of world destruction, trigger the Cold war logic called mutually assured destruction (MAD) and make the European leaders force Kyiv to negotiations. This, in reality, would be surrender on Russia’s terms and the consequences are well understood in Bucha and elsewhere.

Warmonger, blame thyself

The Kremlin’s war to expand its bloody empire, intended to last three days, is now into its third year. What Russian leaders have pretended are peace negotiations and demands that Ukraine recognise Russia’s illicit gains with no conditions, or simply surrender. We have detectedtracked, and debunked this tactic many times.

Russian leaders even call the war existential for Russia and now (finally) recognise that it is a war. Of course, Russian leaders say they wage war to bring about a just peace. That is what warmongers do. But the peace they want is ‘just’ only for them.

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