January 22, 2024

Institute for the Study of War: Russia ready for negotiations with Kyiv but only to remove the government from power

Institute for the Study of War

Russia continues to weaponize its position on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to propagate several long-standing Russian information operations. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spoke at a UNSC meeting, which Russia convened, on January 22 and blamed the West for the lack of negotiations, claiming that Russia has always been “ready for negotiations.” Lavrov clarified, however, that Russia is only interested in negotiations that result in the removal of the current Ukrainian government from power, confirming that Russia still officially seeks regime change in Ukraine. Lavrov continued to deny Ukraine’s independence and sovereignty, falsely claiming that the Ukrainian people have no interests in the war against Russia and that the West has pushed Ukraine to continue the war. Lavrov advised the West to understand that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s ”peace formula” is a “path to nowhere,” claiming that the “sooner [the West] realizes this, the better it will be for both Ukraine and the West.” Lavrov also claimed that “if Ukraine stops fighting, hundreds of thousands” of Ukrainian lives would be saved. Lavrov previously made similar comments, suggesting that the Kremlin believes that Russia will be able to occupy more territory as the war continues and that this course of the war will increasingly weaken Ukraine’s negotiating position.

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk visited Kyiv on January 22 and announced a new Polish defense package for Ukraine. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked Tusk for the new Polish defense package and noted that he and Tusk discussed possibilities for the future production of weapons. Zelensky stated that the package includes a Polish loan for large-scale Ukrainian weapons purchases, but Tusk and Zelensky did not specify additional details about security assistance package provisions or the overall value of the package. Tusk later stated that Poland joined the Group of Seven (G7) declaration of support for Ukraine and noted that Poland will appoint a commissioner to oversee Polish involvement in Ukrainian reconstruction efforts.

Footage purportedly showing an altercation between a Russian soldier and Chechen “Akhmat-Vostok” forces in occupied Melitopol, Zaporizhia Oblast, reignited criticism of Chechen forces for their lack of contributions to Russian military operations in Ukraine. Footage widely circulated on January 22 purportedly shows Chechen “Akhmat-Vostok” Battalion commander Vakha Khambulatov and other “Akhmat-Vostok” Battalion personnel threatening to kill a Russian soldier at a checkpoint in occupied Melitopol after the Russian soldier stated that Khambulatov had invalid identification documents. Russian milbloggers criticized the Chechen personnel for having “too clean uniforms and too clean cars” and complained that these personnel receive the same state salary and social benefits as frontline Russian Airborne (VDV) forces despite contributing less to Russian military operations. A Russian milblogger claimed that this is the fifth altercation between Russian and Chechen military personnel in rear areas. Russian sources have previously criticized Chechen forces for conducting performative actions in Belgorod Oblast after all-Russian pro-Ukrainian forces raided the area, for posturing themselves as a response force during the Wagner Group rebellion in June 2023, and for exaggerating their supposed frontline combat contributions around Bakhmut in July 2023. Chechen Republic Head Ramzan Kadyrov has routinely attempted to curry favor with the Kremlin and promote his domestic power through emphasizing Chechnya’s contributions to the war in Ukraine, and continued criticism against Chechen forces in Ukraine may degrade the influence Kadyrov has gained through this effort.

Key Takeaways:

  • Russia continues to weaponize its position on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to propagate several long-standing Russian information operations.
  • Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk visited Kyiv on January 22 and announced a new Polish defense package for Ukraine.
  • Footage purportedly showing an altercation between a Russian soldier and Chechen “Akhmat-Vostok” forces in occupied Melitopol, Zaporizhia Oblast, reignited criticism of Chechen forces for their lack of contributions to Russian military operations in Ukraine.
  • An investigation by a Russian opposition outlet suggests that Russian elites may have accepted and internalized the domestic consequences of Russia’s war in Ukraine.
  • Russian officials and information space actors are attempting to further rhetorically justify Russia’s invasion of Ukraine by misrepresenting a decree that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky signed on January 22 concerning discrimination against ethnic Ukrainians in Russia. Zelensky’s decree does not establish any territorial demands upon Russia, as select Russian ultranationalists falsely claimed.
  • Russian forces made confirmed advances south of Avdiivka and west of Donetsk City amid continued positional engagements along the entire frontline. 
  • Kyrgyzstan issued a statement against Russia’s continued practice of targeting naturalized migrants as part of ongoing crypto-mobilization efforts.
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