Russia sets conditions for Ukraine peace talks

Ukraine must remove its troops from Russia’s new regions before any meaningful peace negotiations can begin, President Vladimir Putin has stressed.

Moscow rejects Kiev’s claims of sovereignty over five formerly Ukrainian regions, four of which have joined Russia amid the ongoing hostilities. People in the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics and Kherson and Zaporozhye Regions voted for the transition in late 2022, though hostilities continue in all of them.

Ukrainian forces must be removed from these territories, Putin said on Friday at a meeting with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and other senior Russian diplomats.

“I stress: the entire territory of those regions as defined by their administrative borders at the time they joined Ukraine [in August 1991],” Putin stated.

“Our side will order a ceasefire and start negotiations the minute Kiev declares that it is prepared to take this decision and starts actual withdrawal of troops from those regions, and also formally informs us that it no longer plans to join NATO,” the Russian leader pledged.

Putin outlined the conditions after condemning Kiev’s Western backers for allegedly preventing it from holding peace talks with Moscow while accusing Russia of rejecting negotiations.

“We are counting on Kiev to take such a decision on withdrawal, neutral status, and dialogue with Russia, on which the future existence of Ukraine depends, independently based on the current realities and guided by the true interests of the Ukrainian people and not at Western orders,” Putin added.

At this point, Moscow will not accept a frozen conflict, which would allow the US and its allies to rearm and rebuild the Ukrainian military, Putin claimed. The full resolution of the issue will involve Kiev recognizing the four new regions as well as Crimea as part of Russia, he insisted.

“In the future, all those basic principled positions have to be enshrined in fundamental international agreements. Naturally, that includes the lifting of all Western sanctions against Russia.”

Accepting these terms will allow everyone involved to turn the page and gradually rebuild damaged relations, the president said. Eventually, a pan-European security system that works for all nations on the continent could be created, Putin added, noting that Moscow has sought this outcome for years.

The Russian president’s keynote remarks came ahead of a Swiss-hosted summit supposedly meant to further peace in Ukraine. Kiev has insisted that Moscow could not be invited to the event because it would try to “hijack” it by promoting alternatives to the “peace formula” pushed by the Ukrainian government.

Putin claimed that the event was meant to distract public opinion from the “true roots” of the conflict, and that President Volodymyr Zelensky has usurped power in Ukraine after his presidential term expired last month. Nothing but demagoguery and accusations against Russia can come out of the Swiss gathering, he predicted.

Europe needs to maintain good relations with Moscow if it wants to retain its status as one of the centers of world development, Putin suggested.

He stressed that Russia is prepared to work together with Europe and insisted that Moscow bears no ill intent, pointing out that all the recent statements made by Western officials about a supposed Russian attack are “nonsense.”

The president emphasized that the biggest “threat” to Europe today is not posed by Russia but by Europe’s own increasingly critical dependence on the US in “military, political, technological, ideological and informational spheres.”

“Europe is increasingly being pushed out to the margins of global economic development and is being plunged into the chaos of migration and other pressing problems,” Putin continued, adding that European nationals are also being deprived of international subjectivity and cultural identity.

Putin also noted that today, many of Europe’s political leaders and representatives of the European bureaucracy appear to be more afraid of falling out of favor with Washington than losing the trust of their own people. This fact has also become obvious following the results of the latest EU parliamentary elections, the Russian president stated.

Meanwhile, the US is simply “exploiting” European leaders by forcing them to buy American liquefied natural gas, which is nearly “three-four times more expensive than gas in the US”, and pushing them to boost military aid to Ukraine, even threatening sanctions against those who do not comply, Putin said.

The Russian President also pointed out that Europe is being tricked into wasting money and resources on expanding its production of artillery shells, suggesting that such munitions will be completely useless after the conflict between Moscow and Kiev ends and will do nothing to ensure Europe’s military security. The US, on the other hand, continues to invest in military technologies of tomorrow, which will determine the military-political potential of countries, Putin observed.

He stressed that the simple idea that Europe’s future lies in friendly relations with Russia was well understood in the past by politicians of a “truly pan-European and global scale”, such as France’s Charles de Gaulle and Germany’s Helmut Kohl, who Putin described as “patriots of their countries” and “people who thought in historical categories” as opposed to today’s “extras” who can only follow someone else’s will.

Nevertheless, Putin expressed hope that the legacy of the wise leaders of the past would eventually once again be embraced by a new generation of European politicians.

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