We would probably not be givingĀ  SITREPs about Ukraine or hearing from Russian veterans who despise Putin’s decision to push through with the invasion if a particular peace deal was signed before the war began.

According to Reuters, three Kremlin insiders have come forward claiming a peace deal was put on the table before the invasion last February. The most significant factor in the deal was for Ukraine to stay out of NATO. If Ukraine gets into the fold, Europe’s reach would literally be on the border of Russia. The deal supposedly covered Russia’s withdrawal from any advances in the region if Kyiv agreed.

The person who recommended the deal was Ukrainian-born, but Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak. Kozak hammered out the details to make sure they ruled out the possibility of exhausting resources for an all-out invasion of Ukraine, according to the sources. Another critical part of the deal was the scope of the Donbas region, which was occupied by Russian-backed separatists at the time. After Kozak led the Russian delegation to speak with Ukrainian officials in Berlin on Feb. 10 (brokered by France and Germany), Kozak went home saying the latest round of negotiations ended without a breakthrough. Even Russian-state media recorded some parts of a meeting where Putin was laying out plans to formally recognize the separatist entities in Ukraine. However, after the press went out of the room, Kozak spoke out against Russian leaders and raised his concerns about moving forward with the Ukrainian invasion.

Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Kozak
Presentation of state awards of the Russian Federation. Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak was awarded the Order of Merit for the Fatherland, 1st class. (Source: kremlin.ru/Wikimedia)

“Today, we clearly understand that the Russian side has never been interested in a peaceful settlement,” said, Mykhailo Podolyak a close advisor to President Zelensky.

Since 2020, Kozak, a loyal lieutenant to Putin since the 1990s, has been tasked to negotiate with the Ukrainians. He was also present three days before the invasion happened. According to two of the three sources, Kozak’s peace deal was pushed to Putin again right after the start of the invasion on Feb. 24. At the time, Putin’s aide was confident he would be able to have Putin sign the agreement. However, even after smoothing out the paperwork, Kozak was left hanging simply because Putin had a change of heart. Or what is more likely, was negotiating in bad faith all along.

“After Feb. 24, Kozak was given carte blanche: they gave him the green light; he got the deal. He brought it back and they told him to clear off. Everything was canceled. Putin simply changed the plan as he went along,” said one of the sources close to the Russian leadership.

Meanwhile, the third source said they had a different timeline of events. Kozak allegedly proposed the deal to Putin and got rejected before the invasion happened.

Dmitry Peskov
Portrait of Press Secretary of the President of the Russian Federation Dmitry Peskov. (Source: The Presidential Press and Information Office/Wikimedia)

Now, Kremlin got back with their Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov who is categorically denying these events. Peskov said none of these happened.

“That has absolutely no relation to reality. No such thing ever happened. It is absolutely incorrect information,” Peskov said.

Now, six months after the war started, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky states they are unwilling to conduct any deals with Russia. The same sentiment can be heard from the Russian side, where Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said earlier this week that Moscow is looking for “the total surrender of the Kyiv regime on Russia’s terms.”

As for Putin’s loyal aide, he is reportedly missing. Reuters reached out to Kremlin for Kozak’s response but with no success.

“From what I can see, Kozak is nowhere to be seen,” sources close to separatist leadership in Ukraine said.