The main envoy of Vladimir Poutine in Ukraine told the Russian president when the war started that had concluded a provisional agreement with Kyiv which would satisfy Russia’s request for Ukraine to remain outside NATO, but Putin rejected him and continued his military campaignaccording to three people close to the Russian leadership.
Ukrainian-born envoy Dmitry Kozak told Putin he believed the agreement he had reached eliminated the need for Russia to pursue a full-scale occupation of Ukraine, according to these sources. Information about Kozak’s recommendation to Putin to adopt the deal is exclusive to Reuters.
Before the war, Putin had repeatedly asserted that NATO and its military infrastructure were moving closer to Russia’s borders by accepting new members from Eastern Europe and that the alliance was also preparing to bring in the Ukraine in its orbit. Putin has publicly declared that this poses an existential threat to Russia, compelling it to respond.
But, although he had previously supported the negotiations, Putin made it clear when presented with the Kozak deal that the concessions brokered by his aide did not go far enough and that he had broadened his goals to include the annexation of swathes of Ukrainian territory.sources said. The result: the case was dropped.
Asked about Reuters’ findings, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “This has absolutely no relation to reality. Nothing like this has ever happened. This is absolutely incorrect information.” Kozak did not respond to requests for comment sent by the Kremlin.
Mikhailo Podolyak, adviser to the President of Ukraine, said that Russia had used the negotiations as a smokescreen to prepare for its invasionbut did not answer questions on the substance of the talks, nor confirm that a preliminary agreement had been reached: “Today we clearly understand that the Russian side has never been interested in a peaceful agreement”, has Podolyak said.
Two of the three sources claimed that the impetus to close the deal came immediately after the Russian invasion of February 24. In a few days, Kozak believed he had reached an agreement with Ukraine with the main conditions that Russia was looking for and recommended that Putin sign an agreement.sources said.
“After February 24, Kozak had carte blanche: they gave it the green light; got the deal. He brought it back and they told him to go away. Everything has been cancelled. Putin just changed the plan on the flysaid one of the sources close to the Russian leadership.
The third source – who was briefed by people familiar with the Kozak-Putin talks – differs on the timing, saying Kozak offered the deal to Putin and rejected it just before the invasion. All sources requested anonymity to share sensitive inside information.
Moscow’s offensive in Ukraine is the largest military campaign in Europe since World War II. This has resulted in the imposition of sweeping economic sanctions on Russia and military support for Ukraine by Washington and its Western allies.
Even if Putin had accepted Kozak’s plan, it remains uncertain whether the war would have ended. Reuters could not independently verify that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky or senior officials in his government were committed to the deal.
Kozak, 63, has been a loyal Putin deputy since working with him in the 1990s as mayor of St Petersburg.
Kozak was well placed to broker a peace deal because since 2020 Putin had tasked him with conducting talks with his Ukrainian counterparts. over the Donbass region in eastern Ukraine, controlled by Russian-backed separatists following an uprising in 2014.
After leading the Russian delegation to talks with Ukrainian officials in Berlin on February 10 – brokered by France and Germany – Kozak told a late-night press conference that the latest round of those talks will ended without a breakthrough.
Kozak too was one of those present when, three days before the invasion, Putin assembled his military and security chiefs and top aides in the Yekaterinsky Hall of the Kremlin for a meeting of the Russian Security Council.
State television cameras recorded part of the meeting, during which Putin outlined his intention to officially recognize separatist entities in eastern Ukraine.
Once the cameras are pushed out of the vast room with neoclassical columns and a vaulted ceiling, Kozak spoke out against Russia taking steps to escalate the situation with Ukrainesaid two of the three people close to the Russian leadership, as well as a third person who learned about what happened from people who attended the meeting.
Another person interviewed by Reuterswho participated in the talks after the invasion, said that talks collapsed in early March when Ukrainian officials realized Putin had pledged to carry out a full-scale invasion.
Six months after the start of the war, Kozak remains in his post as the Kremlin’s deputy chief of staff. But he no longer deals with the Ukrainian fileaccording to six of the sources who spoke with Reuters.
“From what I can see, Kozak is nowhere to be found.said one of the six, a source close to the separatist leadership in eastern Ukraine.
(With information from Reuters)