As Putin signals ceasefire, former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych's plane lands in Belarus

Yanukovych is a pro-Russian fled Ukraine in 2014 after the Euromaidan protests

Yanukovych Viktor Yanukovych | X

Amid Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to Belarus, reports have emerged that a plane belonging to Viktor Yanukovych, the pro-Russian former president of Ukraine who fled the country after the Euromaidan revolution in 2014, has landed in Belarus. 

Yanukovych's arrival seems to coincide with Putin's statement that Russia was willing to consider a ceasefire provided Kyiv and the West recognise the current battlefield lines.  

According to a report by Kyiv-based Ukrainska Pravada, Yanukovych's Dassault Falcon 900C (RA-09617) landed at Gomel airport on Friday. The report quoted Belaruski Hajun, an independent Belarusian military monitoring media outlet. Though Belaruski Hajun did not indicate who might be on board, it noted that Yanukovych last visited Belarus in March 2022, when there were reports that the Kremlin could prepare Yanukovych for a special operation and could attempt to declare him "President of Ukraine".

Putin, who arrived in Minsk to hold talks with his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko, reacted to Reuters's exclusive report about the ceasefire stating the peace talks should resume. He added that negotiations should be based on "the realities on the ground" and "not based on what one side wants." According to CNN, the "mere possibility of his presence while Putin and Lukashenko met led to speculation Moscow was again hoping to engineer the return of a proxy to power in Ukraine." 

The Russian President also used the opportunity to question the legitimacy of Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy whose official term ended on May 20. Zelenskyy decided to do away with elections despite the expiry of his five-year term this week, citing the war.

Putin didn't forget to cite Zelenskyy's status as problematic as he discussed the ceasefire. "But who to negotiate with? That's not an idle question... Of course, we realise the legitimacy of the incumbent head of state is over," he said, adding that though West would endorse Zelenskyy's legitimacy, these were "PR steps" with no legal meaning.

"Peace should be worked out through common sense, not ultimatums. It should be based on draft documents that were worked out between the two sides in the early weeks of the war, and on today's realities on the ground. If it gets to that point, we will need of course to understand who we should and can deal with, to arrive at signing legally binding documents. And then we must be fully sure we are dealing with legitimate (Ukrainian) authorities," Putin said. 

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