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Time for world leaders to step in and find settlement




A Ukrainian serviceman walks through a village in the Donetsk region. Photo: Bernat Armangue/AP

A Ukrainian serviceman walks through a village in the Donetsk region. Photo: Bernat Armangue/AP

A Ukrainian serviceman walks through a village in the Donetsk region. Photo: Bernat Armangue/AP

It is 100 days since Vladimir Putin’s troops invaded Ukraine. Only the dead have seen the end of this conflict, for those living under what one man in Donbas described as the “metal rain” of artillery, there is no horizon on the horrors.

There are those who argue that any overture to negotiation would be interpreted as weakness, and a victory for Putin. While it might cause the Russian president to accept a ceasefire, they say he would readily exploit it to seize more territory.

Strategists feel it is only when Moscow accepts its war aims have been thwarted that there will be any point in talking.

Former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger took something of a scolding for telling the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, that Western governments should push Ukraine into talks with Putin in the next 60 days.

He also advised support for permanent Ukrainian territorial concessions. Unless this happens, the conflict risks becoming a destabilising “new war against Russia itself”.

Other counsel holds that the concept of a Ukrainian win is illusory. As far as the EU is concerned, the firm line is that Putin has to lose .

One wonders if the mothers and wives of the children, and soldiers, killed in this senseless war were given their say, would they be so ready to agree to an indefinite time line on the indiscriminate slaughter?

Ukraine and the world are paying a terrible price. The conflict must be brought to an end. Sanctions have their role, but they will not stop the war.

So far Nato’s red lines seem to have held, but the risk of a nuclear nightmare has not receded.

The weapons keep arriving in larger shipments and are vital to Ukraine’s defence. The US has done all it can in providing Ukraine with money and military hardware.

Russia has weakened itself, even if it emerges with some gains. The war has also set Europe on edge, creating a pervasive insecurity.

Nordic and Baltic countries recognise they could be next if Moscow is not deterred. The threat has united them and driven them closer to Nato.

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Moscow’s blockade of the northern third of the Black Sea has gravely damaged Ukraine’s economy and the entire world is feeling the consequences.

The estimated 20 million tonnes of wheat stuck in Ukraine is desperately needed in the developing world. Millions in countries such as Lebanon and Egypt face a food crisis unless it is released.

But millions within Ukraine could also be further hit if the blockade drags on. There is no good reason to imagine Putin is inclined to respect Ukraine’s right to exist, let alone its territorial integrity, so the sustained bombardment of civilian centres will likely continue.

France, Germany and Italy have all made statements encouraging some sort of settlement. The world owes Ukraine something more than sitting back as the horrors of another 100 days of genocide unfold. The impact of a long, protracted war can only be ruinous.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “The real and lasting victories are those of peace, and not of war.”

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