Zelensky open to talks with Russia – but not with Putin
President Volodymyr Zelensky has said he is open to “genuine” talks with Russia but that negotiations must be focused on restoring Ukraine’s borders.
On Monday evening, in his nightly video address, the Ukrainian president also demanded that Kyiv be compensated for Russia’s
brutal attacks, which have recently turned to targeting critical infrastructure; that Moscow punish those responsible for war crimes; and that assurances be given that an invasion of Ukraine of this kind “won’t happen again”.
Ukraine’s leader said his demands constitute an offer of “real peace negotiations”, the conditions for which he claimed to have put to Russia “numerous times”, also claiming that Moscow had retaliated with “crazy” responses, including “terrorist attacks, shellings or blackmail”. A senior adviser to Mr Zelensky insisted that Ukraine had never refused to negotiate with Russia, and that Kyiv was ready for talks with Russia’s future leader but not with its incumbent president Vladimir Putin.
The comments by President Zelensky and his adviser Mykhailo Podolyak followed a report in The Washington Post that sources had suggested that the Biden administration was privately encouraging Ukraine’s leaders to signal an openness to negotiate. Washington has said publicly that it will support Ukraine for “as long as it takes” while hoping for a swift resolution to the conflict with Russia.
The US has also accused the Kremlin of escalating the war in Ukraine, and of delaying peace talks even as bodies of Russian soldiers are “piling up” on the front lines of the conflict.
“If Russia is ready for that negotiation, it should stop its bombs. It should stop its missiles. It should stop attacking and killing Ukrainian civilians – pursuing infrastructure, including civilian infrastructure,” US state department spokesperson Ned Price said on Monday night. He continued: “But of course, the Kremlin is doing the opposite. It is continuing to escalate this war rather than to offer any sort of real signal that it is ready for, or open to, negotiations.”
Yesterday, the secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council similarly said that the key condition for the resumption of talks with Moscow would be the restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity. Oleksiy Danilov also said on Twitter that Ukraine also needed the “guarantee” of modern air defences, aircraft, tanks and long-range missiles.
Elsewhere in his video address on Monday, Mr Zelensky said that about 4.5 million people are without electricity across the country. He called on Ukrainians to endure the hardship, saying: “We must get through this winter and be even stronger in the spring than now.”
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