It’s early morning and they speak thru a top secret video link. They both have aides with them but we only see the two on the respective screens.
Putin – Good morning.
Zelensky – How many missiles have you sent us today?
Putin – I’ll get to the point.
Zelensky – Speak.
Putin – I can offer you a deal.
Zelensky shakes his head slightly, like we’ve been through this before.
Putin – I want to end the war.
Zelensky – Then pull back to the borders we had before 2014.
Putin – Listen to me… I’m willing to do that in the East… Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhya, Kherson… all goes back to you…
Zelensky leans forward, interested.
Putin – … but I keep Crimea.
Zelensky – No! We’re getting back all our territory. We won’t accept anything else.
Putin lowers his eyes for a moment.
Putin – We’re losing people every day… you are, and I am, too… we can stop this.
Zelensky – Since when has that been important to you? You started it. No one was threatening you…
Putin – What happened, happened. You need to think more broadly. How long you think the West will support you? It’s costing them a lot of money to keep you well armed.
People are unhappy with all the restrictions… the shortages… inflation… and there will likely be a world recession. In America, the democrats may lose the mid term elections. Some Republicans are talking of cutting back on support for Ukraine if they gain control of both houses. But if we make a deal, the West will be grateful and relieved… and you’d be helping democrats win the mid terms. Biden will be especially grateful… and that will open the door to investments in Ukraine… to rebuild…
Zelensky – What you’ve destroyed.
Putin – We need to look forward. I am what I am and did what I did, but you and me, we can stop the losses. Do you want a war that will last forever?
Zelensky rubs his face.
Putin – I will not surrender Crimea and I can keep the war going on and on and on.
Think of the lives we can save.
Putin joins his hands in front of him as he looks directly at Zelensky.
Putin – I need a deal… that’s why I’ve come to you. I have no illusions that Europe will return to buying oil from me… but some of the sanctions will be lifted and that would be good for me and my people.
Zelensky – You must be getting pressure from some groups in Russia…
Putin – Could be… but I’ve dealt with it before.
Think of it this way… if we make a deal right now… both Ukrainian and Russian lives will be spared. If we make a deal right now… we can order that all shooting stop today… this moment… and we hold our gains until we sign the papers. Winter is almost here.
Zelensky – I need to think it over and discuss it with my people.
Putin – Your time thinking and discussing is measured in lives… for I will keep shooting missiles into your land.
Zelensky – And we will keep firing back.
Putin – It’s up to you and me.
Zelensky – Why do you want to keep Crimea and not the East?
Putin – I love the sea… Crimea is surrounded by water… and Russians like to go there on vacation.
Putin – Look, I can’t walk away with nothing. Surrendering the East is already a defeat. But I will not surrender Crimea, even if it means keeping the war going on and on and on.
The world is ready to invest in Ukraine… so, essentially, you have won. I accept that.
But I keep Crimea.
Zelensky – Have you talked about this with anyone else?
Putin – No one.
Zelensky – When did you first think about it?
Putin – It’s been on my mind for a couple of weeks. We can change the mood of the world… you and me… if we compromise. It’s up to us. Volodymyr… think about it…you will go on to be an admired leader for the rest of your life. I won’t. I will have to live with the consequences of my mistakes… and do everything I can to stay in power. Do we have a deal?