Second, any negotiations with Russia would be made more complicated by the fact that, to put it bluntly, the Russian side cannot be trusted to keep its promises. In late 2014 and early 2015, after Russia’s first invasion, Russia and Ukraine signed the Minsk Agreements intended to implement a ceasefire. As American diplomat Kurt Volker demonstrates in an article posted last December, Russia and its separatist proxies in Eastern Ukraine have repeatedly flouted those agreements—among other things, by rejecting neutral peacekeeping and blocking oversight by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. More recently, on July 23, Russia fired missiles at the Black Sea port of Odessa a day after Moscow and Kyiv reached an agreement to unblock the port and allow tons of Ukrainian grain to be shipped in order to avoid a global food crisis.
Third, let us not forget that ceding territory to Russia means condemning tens or hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian men, women and children to an occupation marked not only by physical brutality, but by a deliberate effort to wipe out independent Ukrainian culture. The Moscow-controlled separatist enclaves of Donetsk and Luhansk formed in 2014 were violently repressive statelets where abductions, torture, ad hoc trials, and summary executions were the norm. Last week’s reports of escalating atrocities show that the same pattern persists today in Ukrainian territories under Russian occupation.