Territories in exchange for NATO. The 'mistake' infuriates Kiev

WHERE THE BORDER IS. Case already dropped, but the possibility of a cession in favour of Russia is causing Zelensky stomach ache. Who may also have to skip the G20

No concessions. The Ukrainian authorities are squaring off to reiterate their intransigence towards the invader, after it was suggested - hypothetically and on the sidelines of a meeting that had little or almost no diplomatic value - that Kiev might cede territories to Russia in exchange for rapid entry into NATO. This was suggested the day before yesterday by Stian Jennsen, director of the private office of the secretary general of the Atlantic Alliance, during a round table in Arendal, Norway. He added, however, that 'it would in any case be up to Ukraine to figure out whether and how to negotiate' (quoted by the newspaper Vg).

THE REACTION was not long in coming: Ukrainian presidential advisor Mykhailo Podolyak, writing on social media, branded the possibility as 'ridiculous', while Davyd Arakhamiia, Zelensky's party secretary, said it would be an 'invitation for anyone to engage in military aggression'.

In the wake of the controversy, NATO has however clarified through a spokesman that the Alliance's position has not changed and that it 'will continue to support Ukraine as long as necessary', while Jennsen himself yesterday afternoon called his own statements 'a mistake'. However, it is true that rumours about alleged pressure on Kiev by the Western allies to reach negotiations have been chasing each other for days - perhaps also as an effect of the Kremlin's disinformation strategies.

Secretary of the Ukrainian National Council for Security and Defence Oleksiy Danilov, in an interview with Repubblica, denies everything and reiterates that Russia "must be destroyed". Iryna Vereshchuk, deputy prime minister, reiterates: 'The war will not end this year or next spring, we must be honest. We must prepare for a very long battle,' she wrote on her Telegram channel. Statements that are also reflected in the figures: just yesterday, the Ukrainian Ministry of Finance made it known that the maintenance of military personnel was the largest item of expenditure in the state bugdet in the first six months of 2023 (around USD 44 billion, one third of the total).

ON THE OTHER HAND, the need for Kiev to defend its territory has not waned: in the early morning of mid-August, the Russian army launched another large-scale missile attack that also involved the western regions. According to local sources, several residential buildings were damaged in Lviv, while three employees of the Swedish company Skf in the city of Lutsk, not far from the Polish border, died.

A fire at an industrial facility occurred in Dnipro, while in Cherson on Wednesday there were further injuries in the town and surrounding villages. But the threat also seems to have arrived by land: Ukrainian military commander Serhii Naiev reported that he had repelled an attempt by Russian sabotage units to enter the border of the Cernihiv region (an attempt that, according to Naiev, had already occurred on a couple of other occasions).

MORE, skirmishes continue on the Black Sea. After the Kremlin attacked the grain depots again, this time at the port of Reni on the Danube, a Hong Kong-flagged merchant ship finally left Odessa yesterday morning. It is the first vessel to do so following the Russian withdrawal from the agreement. 'Freedom and safety of navigation are fundamental international principles,' Zelensky wrote, aware that an important diplomatic game is being played on the grain issue. However, the Ukrainian president's name does not appear among the guests at the G20 in New Delhi in September, unlike his counterpart in Moscow, and the Chinese defence minister visiting Minsk confirmed his country's military cooperation with Russia and Belarus. The stalemate, therefore, is not only on the battlefield.