Intelligence chief: Putin not likely to meet Zelenskyy any time soon
The seeming breakthrough in negotiations between Ukraine and Russia should not be overestimated right now, because the Russian Federation is instead procrastinating, in order to make new demands, Mikk Marran, director general of the Estonian Foreign Intelligence Service (Välisluureamet) says.
Appearing on ETV politics show "Esimene stuudio" Tuesday, Marran said that a meeting between Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Vladimir Putin is not imminent, either.
While both Russia and Ukraine have announced that progress was made in the talks on Tuesday, the war is gaining in momentum and Russian troops are shelling Ukrainian cities, Marran said.
At the same time, statements by the Russian authorities that the focus militarily will be on the Donbas area of eastern Ukraine in future means that the assault on Kyiv, Ukraine's capital, has failed, he added.
"Now, the main forces will aim to fully occupy Mariupol, and take over the Luhansk and Donetsk regions to their administrative borders. I cannot see this news [of negotiations] from the battlefield changing anything, but instead, Russia's regime chose its tactics where they can claim a sort of victory on May 9," referring to the annual day in Russia which marks the end of World War Two, and is dubbed Victory Day.
The change in strategy does not mean that Russian troops will leave the Kyiv area completely, however, Marran added. "They will remain there, in defensive positions which will make them more vulnerable to attacks by Ukrainian forces. Many (Russian) units will be able to go to eastern Ukraine, there are further reinforcements in Russia. But this will give Ukraine a better chance to organize its defense. At the same time, Ukraine has no margin of luxury fully to leave these sites and divert all its energy to eastern Ukraine," Marran explained.
The idea of success in the Donbas is likely foremost in the minds of Russian negotiators, which also gives it a better position in any negotiations, one which it currently does not have, he went on.
"Ukraine can't make any very big concessions. I think we will see the first phases of the negotiations, but tomorrow we will not be putting our palms together, and there will be no peace on earth yet, unfortunately," he continued.
A Putin-Zelenskyy summit is not on the cards any time soon, he added.
"I think Putin wants to put of this meeting as long as possible. Rather, the negotiations will be delayed, new demands will be made. And if the agreement goes to signing, then that would be by the representatives, the foreign ministers," he added.
Marran: Ukraine war highly unpopular among Russian conscripts
The stated numbers of fatalities and casualties on both sides of the conflict must be treated with a few reservations, as either is capable of inflating or downplaying them where necessary, he added.
"In general, it could be said that about 10 percent of the Russian troops who went to war in Ukraine are now incapacitated – i.e. either killed or injured. That's a big proportion, of course."
The war is also extremely unpopular among Russian conscripts, he added.
"We see people deserting their positions every day, inflicting self-harm, so as not to have to go into battle. This also affects the current conscription," he said.
Dissatisfaction is also high back in Russia itself, among the civilian population, he added.
"Dissatisfaction is quite widespread, and not only among ordinary citizens, but among dissatisfied oligarchs, diplomats, Duma representatives, businessmen, as well as members of the armed forces, are all very critical of Putin," he went on.
This need not mean that time would be running out for the Russian leader, however, Marran said.
"It is difficult to predict whether this could lead to a coup d'état. Putin has for the last two to five years focused on putting the screws on society, so that all opposition, and thoughts of opposition, would be stifled. However, time will tell but right now we can't promise anything."
Mikk Marran was talking to "Esimene stuudio", Tuesday, March 29 2022.
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Editor: Andrew Whyte