Russian leader Vladimir Putin allegedly told his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping during a meeting in March that Russia planned to continue its war against Ukraine for "at least five years," Nikkei Asia reported on Dec. 28, citing its anonymous sources.
The article follows media reports suggesting that Putin may be ready for a ceasefire in case Russia keeps the territories it illegally occupies in Ukraine, while the West's strategy on supporting Ukraine is leaning towards preparing conditions for Kyiv-Moscow talks.
In its analytical piece, Nikkei Asia wrote that Putin's words to Xi were apparently his way of summarizing a situation on the battlefield that was at that time unfavorable for Russia and assuring the Chinese leader that Russia would eventually win the war.
Putin's statement likely meant to imply that a prolonged war would benefit Russia and warn Xi to not change his pro-Russian stance, the media outlet added.
Xi traveled to Moscow on March 20 at Putin's invitation for his first state visit to Russia since the beginning of its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February last year.
Beijing has supported Russia diplomatically and economically amid the Western push to isolate it but appears to have steered clear of providing direct military assistance.
The New York Times reported on Dec. 23, citing its unnamed sources, that Putin has been signaling behind closed doors that Russia would be open to a ceasefire along the current front line.
Putin's sought ceasefire would mean Russia would keep the territories it illegally occupies in Ukraine, where the population is subject to abductions and summary executions.
However, according to Nikkei Asia's analysis, Putin's words to Xi, revealed by multiple sources familiar with diplomatic maneuvering between Moscow and Beijing, indicate that his supposed willingness to stop the hostilities should not be taken at face value.
"It could be that Putin wishes to merely create the illusion that he is moving toward a ceasefire or even peace ahead of Russia's presidential election in March, believing such an atmosphere would favor him at the polls," the outlet argued.
An unnamed White House official and a European diplomat told Politico on Dec. 27 that the Biden administration and European officials are beginning to shift focus from supporting total victory over Russia to improving Ukraine's position in eventual peace talks with Russia.
These negotiations could force Ukraine to cede territory to Russia, which is widely unpopular among the Ukrainian population.
Ukraine laid out its 10-point "peace formula" in November 2022. One of the key points as a precondition for starting peace talks is the full withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukrainian territory, including the regions illegally annexed by Russia in 2014.
Russian officials have previously reiterated that this would be considered a nonstarter for any negotiations.
Ukrainian and Western leaders have repeatedly said that they do not believe Russia is interested in good-faith peace negotiations.