Putin says Ukraine must withdraw troops to start peace talks

Moscow   -   Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday that Moscow would only halt its offensive on Ukraine if Kyiv effectively surrenders by pulling its troops out of the east and south and dropping its bid for NATO membership. Ukraine, NATO and the United States immediately rejected Putin’s hardline conditions to halt the full-scale military offensive that he launched in February 2022. The two countries have been locked in bloody conflict for more than two years, and no direct peace talks have been held since the first weeks of Russia’s campaign, when it was advancing on the Ukrainian capital. Ukraine has called for Russia’s full withdrawal from its internationally recognised territory, including the annexed Crimean peninsula, as part of any peace deal. Kyiv hopes to marshal international support at a major peace summit in Switzerland this weekend. But with Russia advancing on the battlefield and Ukraine struggling with manpower and ammunition shortages, Putin’s comments show little appetite to compromise. “Ukrainian troops must be completely withdrawn from the Donetsk People’s Republic, the Lugansk People’s Republic, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions,” Putin said in a televised address to Russian diplomats in Moscow.

Russia claimed to have annexed the four regions in 2022, despite not having full control over any of them.

The regional capitals of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia are still in Ukrainian hands.

“As soon as Kyiv says it is ready to do this and begins really withdrawing troops and officially renounces plans to join NATO, we will immediately, literally that very minute, cease fire and begin talks,” Putin said.

Russia was seeking “Ukraine’s neutral, non-aligned, non-nuclear status, its demilitarisation and de-nazification,” he added.