Force Russia to make peace, Zelensky urges West

| Says he will not negotiate with Russia directly until Moscow’s forces leave all Ukrainian territory, including Crimea

KYIV   -   Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has urged Western leaders to pressure Russia into peace using “all means” necessary. Speaking in Spain, Mr Zelensky said there needed to be “tangible coercion of Russia”, which was seeking to “destroy Ukraine and move on”. Mr Zelensky has long said he will not negotiate with Russia directly until Moscow’s forces leave all Ukrainian territory, including Crimea.

His call, however, comes as Russia makes gains against Ukraine, with Kyiv suffering from a shortage of Western-supplied weapons. Russia, he said, was dropping some 3,200 aerial bombs on Ukraine each month.

“How do you fight that?” Mr Zelensky asked reporters in Madrid where he met Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez.

The Ukrainian president rejected the idea of inviting Russia to a planned peace summit in Switzerland next month.

The summit is expected to include representatives of more than 90 countries. Delegates will “try and chart a course for a just and lasting peace in Ukraine” based on 10 demands set forth by Kyiv calling for the return of all invaded territory, reparation payments for war-related damages and the creation of a special tribunal to prosecute Russian war crimes, a plan that Moscow has flatly rejected.

Russia publicly says it is ready for peace talks, provided territories already seized in Ukraine remain under its control. In Madrid, Mr Zelensky urged Western leaders to lift bans on donated weapons being used to strike Russian territory.

Most Western countries, including the US, have insisted Kyiv focuses its attacks on Russian forces occupying Ukrainian territory. “We need to work together and put pressure not only on Russia, but also on our partners to give us the opportunity to defend ourselves against Russia,” the Ukrainian leader said.

On Monday, Russia said its forces had captured two more villages in eastern Ukraine, as a new summer offensive continues to gain momentum.

Russian gains in the north-east of the country have been its most significant for 18 months, during which time its forces have been largely stuck in intense fighting in the Donbas region.

Mr Zelensky has warned that the gains could mark the beginning of a broader offensive, saying on Sunday that Moscow was gathering “another group of troops near our border”, about 90km (56 miles) north-west of Kharkiv city. Russia’s President Vladimir Putin launched a full-scale invasion in February 2022.

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