By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — The Kremlin has refused to comment on a U.S. news report that Washington has held undisclosed talks with top Russian officials amid fears Moscow could further escalate its military aggression in Ukraine and perhaps even use nuclear weapons.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on November 7 that, while Russia remains “open” to talks, it was unable to negotiate with Kyiv due to its refusal to hold talks with Moscow.
His comments come after The Wall Street Journal reported on November 6 that U.S. national-security adviser Jake Sullivan held undisclosed talks with top Russian officials in the hope of reducing the risk of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine spilling over or escalating into a nuclear conflict.
That report came a day after The Washington Post reported that the United States was privately encouraging Ukraine to signal an openness to negotiate with Russia, as the State Department said Moscow was escalating the war and did not seriously wish to engage in peace talks.
The Washington Post cited unnamed sources as saying that the request by U.S. officials was not aimed at pushing Ukraine to the negotiating table, but a calculated attempt to ensure that Kyiv maintains the support of other nations.
Washington has not commented publicly on either of the U.S. media reports.
“We’ve said it before and will say it again: Actions speak louder than words. If Russia is ready for negotiation, it should stop its bombs and missiles and withdraw its forces from Ukraine,” a State Department spokesperson was quoted as saying by Reuters.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy signed a decree on October 4 formally declaring the prospect of any Ukrainian talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin “impossible” but leaving the door open to talks with Russia.
According to the report in The Wall Street Journal, Sullivan held confidential conversations in recent months with Kremlin aide Yury Ushakov and Russian Security Council secretary Nikolai Patrushev that were not disclosed publicly.
Sullivan travelled to Kyiv on November 4 and pledged Washington’s “unwavering and unflinching” support for Ukraine.
His unannounced visit coincided with an announcement the same day by the U.S. Defense Department of another shipment of weapons to Ukraine worth $400 million.
At a news conference in Kyiv, Sullivan sought again to calm Ukrainian jitters about whether U.S. weapons would continue after the upcoming midterm U.S. congressional elections.
Polls show that Republicans are poised to take control of one, or possibly both chambers of Congress, and a small but vocal number of Republicans have voiced misgivings about the amount and duration of U.S. aid for Ukraine.
“There will be no wavering,” Sullivan said at a news conference. “I’m confident U.S. support for Ukraine will be unwavering and unflinching.”
Asked about the prospect of peace talks with Russia, Sullivan repeated what U.S. officials have said in the past: “nothing is discussed about Ukraine without Ukraine.”
“For me, the main question about these negotiations is what a just peace looks like and how it can be achieved,” Sullivan said. “If you look at Russian accusations, Russian actions, in particular regarding the annexation of [Ukrainian] territories, it does not really encourage negotiations.”