Negotiations with Putin doomed to fail, says UK's Johnson

British prime minister compared talks with Russian leader to negotiating with a 'crocodile when it’s got your leg in its jaws'

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, left, and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson walk in downtown Kyiv, Ukraine, on April 9. Ukrainian Presidential Press Office / AP

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has indicated that he believes negotiations with Russia to end Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine are doomed to fail.

Mr Johnson on Wednesday compared dealing with the Russian president to negotiating with a “crocodile when it’s got your leg in its jaws”.

Speaking on a flight to India, Mr Johnson said Mr Putin might only seek to negotiate in earnest if he managed to seize a significant portion of Ukraine.

But he said that at that point, the Russian president might try to launch another assault on Kyiv.

Mr Johnson said Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy had a “maximalist” approach to wanting to get back territory seized by Russia in the east of Ukraine.

But he said he believed Mr Zelenskyy was open to negotiations on Crimea, which was annexed by Mr Putin’s forces in 2014.

“It’s for the Ukrainians to decide their future," Mr Johnson said. "Nothing should be decided about Ukraine without Ukraine.

“But I think it’s very hard to see how the Ukrainians can negotiate with Putin now, given his manifest lack of good faith and his strategy, which is evident, to try to engulf and capture as much of Ukraine as he can, and then perhaps have some sort of negotiation from a position of strength, or even to launch another assault on Kyiv.

“So I really don’t see how the Ukrainians can easily sit down and come to some kind of accommodation.

“How can you negotiate with a crocodile when it’s got your leg in its jaws? That’s the difficulty the Ukrainians face.”

“I don’t see how Putin can be taken to be a valid interlocutor now.”

But Mr Johnson did suggest that Mr Zelenskyy, who he recently visited in Kyiv and frequently calls, could be open to negotiation on Crimea.

“The view of the president of Ukraine, if I understood him correctly – I speak to him a lot – is he would actually like Russian forces to be expelled from their existing positions in Donetsk and Luhansk.

“That’s a pretty maximalist position. On Crimea, they’re not so maximalist.”

Updated: April 21, 2022, 12:28 AM
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