Ukraine and Russia prepared for the first face-to-face peace talks in more than two weeks on Monday, but a senior US official said Russian President Vladimir Putin appeared unwilling to compromise to end the war.
Ukraine’s foreign minister said a ceasefire was the best his country could hope for from talks due to take place in Istanbul on Tuesday, after Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan spoke with Russia’s Vladimir Putin on Sunday.
“We do not trade with people, land or sovereignty,” said Dmytro Kuleba.
A report that Russian billionaire broker Roman Abramovich and Ukrainian peace negotiators had suffered symptoms of suspected poisoning after meeting in Kyiv this month underscored tensions during the talks.
The Wall Street Journal and investigative newspaper Bellingcat cited people familiar with the matter for their reports, but Ukraine threw cold water on them and a US official said the cause of the symptoms was the environment, not toxins.
In besieged Ukrainian cities where conditions are desperate, the threat of Russian attacks blocked escape routes for civilians, two Ukrainian officials said, including the devastated port of Mariupol, whose mayor said 160,000 people were still trapped.
But the United Nations said it was able to get food and medical supplies to Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-biggest city and one of the hardest-hit.
A morning rocket blew up the wall of a Kharkiv school.
“They weren’t able to take the city, so they decided to destroy it,” said Oleksandr, who swept debris out of a third-floor classroom after spending the night with his mother on a lower floor because their own neighborhood doing this had been taken.
The mayor of Irpin, near Kyiv, said Ukrainian forces were back in full control and a US defense official said Ukrainians had retaken the eastern town of Trostyanets south of Sumy and were still trying to gain ground.
For its part, the Russian Defense Ministry said its troops had destroyed ammunition depots in the Zhytomyr region west of Kyiv and hit 41 Ukrainian military bases in the past 24 hours. Reuters was unable to verify any of the reports immediately.
“CHANGE YOUR GOALS”
Tuesday’s talks will be the first face-to-face since a bitter meeting between foreign ministers on March 10, a sign of changes behind the scenes as the Russian invasion stalled and sanctions took hold.
“We destroyed the myth of the invincible Russian army. We are resisting the aggression of one of the strongest armies in the world and managed to make them change their goals,” said Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko.
He said 100 people had been killed in the capital, including four children, and 82 multi-story buildings had been destroyed. The numbers could not be verified.
Russia’s military last week signaled it would focus on expanding separatist-held territory in eastern Ukraine, but Ukraine said it saw no sign Russia had abandoned a plan to surround the capital it was targeting in its invasion Targeted February 24th.
Ukrainian officials had hinted that Russia might be more willing to compromise after seeing fierce Ukrainian resistance and heavy Russian casualties. But a senior US State Department official said Putin did not give that impression.
“All I’ve seen is that he’s not ready to compromise at this point,” the official told Reuters on condition of anonymity after the Ukrainian president outlined a possible way to end the crisis over the weekend.
At the sides’ last face-to-face meeting, Ukraine accused Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov of ignoring requests for a ceasefire, while Lavrov said a cessation of fighting was not even on the agenda.
Since then, they have held talks via video link and publicly discussed a formula by which Ukraine could accept some sort of formal neutral status. But neither side budged from Russia’s territorial demands, including Crimea, which Moscow seized and annexed in 2014, and the eastern territories known as Donbass, which Moscow is demanding Kyiv separatists cede.
“I don’t think there will be a breakthrough on the main issues,” said Interior Ministry adviser Vadym Denysenko.
However, Turkish President Erdogan was more optimistic, reporting progress in phone talks with Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
BIDEN CALL “ALARMING”
The Kremlin said Biden’s startling comment about Putin at the end of a speech in Warsaw over the weekend: “For God’s sake, this man can’t stay in power” was “certainly alarming” after previously saying it was up to the Russians to choose their leader.
On Sunday, Biden said he was not calling for regime change.
Russia is calling its actions in Ukraine a “special military operation” to disarm and “denazify” its neighbor. Kyiv and the West see this as a pretext for an unprovoked invasion to try to overthrow Ukraine’s elected government.
British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said the talks should not result in Ukraine being “sold out”, noting the “difficult deal” which left her vulnerable after Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.
“We have to make sure that Putin can never act so aggressively again. Any long-term deal must include a clear sanctions rollback that would be automatically triggered by any Russian aggression,” she told parliament.
Last week, Ukrainian forces pushed back Russian troops in areas around Kyiv, to the north-east and south-west, while Russia kept up the pressure in the south-east near separatist areas, including its devastating siege of Mariupol.
Mayor Vadym Boichenko said from an undisclosed location outside the city that 26 buses were waiting to evacuate some of the 160,000 trapped civilians, but Russia was denying safe passage.
“People are beyond the humanitarian catastrophe,” Boichenko said on national television. “We must evacuate Mariupol completely.” A spokesman for Boichenko later said that nearly 5,000 people were killed and 90% of buildings damaged, of which 40% were destroyed.
Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said intelligence reports of possible Russian “provocations” along evacuation routes from besieged cities mean there are no plans for such evacuations as of Monday.
Elsewhere, Russia’s armored columns are bogged down, struggling with supplies, and making little or no progress.
Britain’s MoD said there had been no significant changes to Russia’s positions over the past 24 hours, with most of the Russian gains near Mariupol and heavy fighting ongoing there.
“As of today, the enemy is regrouping its forces, but it has nowhere to advance in Ukraine,” said Deputy Defense Minister of Ukraine Hanna Malyar.
Putin unwilling to compromise ahead of peace talks – SABC News
Source link Putin unwilling to compromise ahead of peace talks – SABC News