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The neighbors can see decades without the normalization of relations, the head of Ukraine’s military intelligence said

Russia and Ukraine may never sign a formal peace treaty ending the current conflict, Kirill Budanov, the head of Ukraine’s military intelligence, wrote in an op-ed, excerpts from which were published on Monday. He pointed to Russia and Japan, which never signed a comprehensive peace treaty after World War II due to Tokyo’s claims on several of Russia’s Kuril Islands. 

“There are cases in history when old wars between the states have not been legally concluded. An obvious example is Russia and Japan. They did not sign a peace agreement after 1945 due to [the dispute] over the Northern Islands, also known as the Kuril Islands in Russia. This territorial problem is now more than 70 years old,” Budanov wrote in an op-ed for NV magazine,

“This is why such a scenario is highly likely in our case, considering that Russia has significant territorial appetite when it comes to Ukraine, and not only pertaining to Crimea.”

Budanov’s assessment comes as Kiev’s long-anticipated counteroffensive, launched in the summer, has largely petered out without achieving any significant victories on the ground. Ukrainian troops struggled to break through fortified defense lines and cross thick minefields, losing many NATO-supplied tanks and other armored vehicles in the process. Speaking to the Economist this month, Valery Zaluzhny, Ukraine’s top general, described the situation on the battlefield as “a stalemate.”

The prospects of a peace treaty between Moscow and Kiev remain bleak as both countries ruled out compromising with one another. President Vladimir Zelensky and other top-ranking Ukrainian officials ruled out negotiations unless Russia surrenders its recently acquired territories. Moscow repeatedly said that it would be impossible.

Crimea voted to leave Ukraine and join Russia in 2014, following a Western-backed coup in Kiev that year. Four other former Ukrainian territories – the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, as well as the regions of Kherson and Zaporozhye – did the same after holding referendums on the matter in September 2022.

At the same time, President Vladimir Putin argued last month that Moscow was aiming not to acquire new lands, but to protect the people of Donbass and maintain its own security. He said that the Ukrainian delegation was close to signing a neutrality pact in March 2022, but has since discarded preliminary agreements. 

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