Ukraine updates: West must not ‘fall for Putin’s tricks’

Ahead of the Munich Security Conference, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has said Russia would have no incentive to end the war if it sees it can conquer territories militarily. DW has the latest.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba expressed his doubts on whether a diplomatic solution can be found with Russia in an interview Friday for the newspapers of Germany’s Funke Mediengruppe and French daily Ouest-France.

“I like anyone who wants to achieve peace through diplomatic initiatives,” Kuleba said. “But how can such an initiative work? Should the price for freedom be that Russia stays in the occupied regions?”

He said that the Kremlin would have no reason to definitively end the war if it saw it could conquer and annex territory militarily. “It could take a break and then start another war in around a year,” Kuleba argued.

Any talks with Russia could only start upon the basis of Ukraine’s territorial integrity being “completely restored,” Kuleba declared, calling this “non-negotiable.”

“We’ve learnt a difficult lesson: when you give Russia a finger, it’ll take the whole hand,” he said.

Kuleba argued that Putin was using “intimidation tactics” in stoking Western fears over potential further escalation of the conflict. He urged Western countries not to “fall for Putin’s tricks.”

“Many of the people who with pained expressions advocate for peace and diplomacy in reality just want Ukraine to be defeated by Russia,” he said.

Kuleba said that an expected Russian spring offensive had “already started,” with Moscow gradually increasing the intensity of the offensive.

Here are some of the other notable developments concerning the war in Ukraine on Friday, February 17.

Zelenskyy aide: Balloons part of Russian aerial assault

Ihor Zhovkva, the Deputy Head of the Office for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, told DW that Russia is using balloons to exhaust Ukraine’s air defenses.

Zhovkva said Russia launched an attack “across the whole country” on Wednesday.

He said that Moscow was “combining its efforts” in the multi-pronged assault, using cruise missiles, ballistic missiles, drones and balloons.

The presidential aide claimed that Kyiv is currently intercepting around 75-80% of Russian missiles and drones.

Khodorkovsky: War won’t end as long as Putin’s in power

Russian opposition figure and former oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky believes the war is likely to continue as long as Vladimir Putin is in power in Moscow.

“As long as Putin’s regime is in power, the war will not end,” Khodorkovsky said in Munich.

The war in Ukraine had cause deep divisions within Russia, he said.

Khodorkovsky said that “active support” for the war and the will to enlist in the Russian military is low.

Khodorkovsky, who is now based in London, was the head of the Yukos oil company and spent several years in a prison camp after being convicted of embezzlement in Russia.

Munich Security Conference begins

The Munich Security Conference kicks off on Friday, involving leaders of dozens of countries and with Ukraine expected to dominate the agenda.

US Vice President Kamala Harris Harris, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak are set to meet on the sidelines of the conference to discuss support to Kyiv and further sanctions on Moscow.

For the first time in two decades, Russian leaders were not invited to the conference. The event is set to open with a video address by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Scholz is set to speak immediately afterwards.

More on the war in Ukraine

Russia has said it will cut its oil output in response to Western embargoes and price caps. DW takes a look into Moscow’s motive behind the move.

1,000 journalists have left Russia over the past year, with many of them practicing their profession in exile.

The Berlinale film festival opened with an address by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

sdi/rt (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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