Dhe Ukrainian defenders are under pressure. On Monday, Kiev said the army had withdrawn from the town of Avdiivka and from the nearby village of Lastochkyne. Nevertheless, President Volodymyr Zelenskyj has appeared emphatically optimistic in recent days, for example in his recent major press conference. In the spring they want to hold a first, an “opening conference” in a peace process in Switzerland. There “the countries will present a fair document”; he apparently meant a draft for a ceasefire. Only at a second conference, “perhaps on another continent,” could Russia be invited to the negotiations.

Gerhard Gnauck

Political correspondent for Poland, Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania based in Warsaw.

These ideas are an initiative of Ukraine, emphasized Zelensky. He wants the process to start early in the year, before elections take place in important countries – by which he apparently also means the USA – and before a country possibly starts a peace initiative whose interests run counter to those of Ukraine.

At the same time, Zelenskyj made vague hints about the military situation in his appearance in Kiev on Sunday evening. “There is a plan, but I can’t give you any details.” The fact that Ukraine’s counteroffensive, which began in 2023, was hardly successful is due to leaked information. “Our counteroffensive was already on the table in the Kremlin before it had begun.” Russia, for its part, will attempt another offensive “at the end of May or in the summer.”

Zelensky: Putin doesn't have a cell phone

However, his country will not lose this war, but rather win, said Zelensky. “We have no alternative. If we lose, we no longer exist.” When asked about direct talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Zelensky answered evasively: “Can you talk to a person who kills his opponents?” Another time he said that Putin doesn't have one Cell phone with which he could call him.

For the first time in a long time, figures on war losses were given: “31,000 Ukrainians, soldiers, died in this war. This is a great pain,” said Zelensky. In addition, there are missing and wounded people, for whom he will not give any figures, and “tens of thousands of civilians have died” in the occupied territories. He put the Russian military's losses at 180,000 dead.

The number of victims in Ukraine is controversial. Users on social media calculated that due to the deaths from their hometown, the number given by Zelenskyj must be too low. The founder of the “Come Back Alive” foundation, Taras Tschmut, who collects donations for the equipment of soldiers, wrote on the platform X: “The president called the losses of the military … Very unexpected. But it’s certainly time to talk to society like adults.”

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