The World Awaits Putin’s Word on Ukraine, but on That, He Is Silent

“Let’s first get the response,” Dmitri S. Peskov, the Kremlin’s spokesman, said this week when asked about Russia’s stance. “Then the position will be formulated based on the conceptual guidelines provided by the head of state.”

Behind the scenes, in the Kremlin’s telling, Mr. Putin has been busy. In the last two weeks, Mr. Putin has spoken by phone with the leaders of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cuba, Finland, Israel, Kazakhstan, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Uzbekistan and Venezuela. He hosted the president of Iran, Ebrahim Raisi, at the Kremlin.

But right now, it appears that the silence on Ukraine is the signal.

Ms. Stanovaya, who has studied Mr. Putin for years, said she saw three possible explanations for the president’s silence. Having laid out his hard-line stance demanding immediate concessions from the West late last year, Mr. Putin may see no point in repeating himself and is leaving the back-and-forth to his diplomats. It could also be that he sees a glimmer of hope for a possible deal and wants to avoid saying anything about it for the moment. Or he may have already decided on a military course of action and has been preparing to implement it while awaiting a formal response.

“We will still hear from him,” Ms. Stanovaya said of Mr. Putin.

Rather than publicly discuss Ukraine, Mr. Putin held a televised meeting on Wednesday with government officials in which he touched on cryptocurrency regulation and the pandemic. His videoconference earlier in the day with Italian business executives ran an hour longer than planned, according to Vincenzo Trani, president of the Italian-Russian Chamber of Commerce.

The meeting was “very friendly,” Mr. Trani said. But there was no mention, even in the nontelevised portion of the meeting, of the big geopolitical issue of the day.

“On Ukraine, absolutely zero,” said Mr. Trani, who added that the only thing related to the tensions was when Mr. Putin’s answered Mr. Trani’s question about stability.

“I said we have a big need of stability,” Mr. Trani said, making it clear that he also meant stability in the region.

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