Vladimir Putin calls for resumption of peace talks with Ukraine, but denies Zelensky’s legitimacy

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday called for the resumption of peace talks with Ukraine, although he contested the legitimacy of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

“Peace talks should be restarted, not with an ultimatum, but with reason,” Putin told a news conference in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, where he met with his ally Alexander Lukashenko.

The Russian president said that the resumption of these negotiations should be the ultimate objective of “signing legally binding documents”. He recalled that Ukraine initially agreed to sign such a document at the last peace talks with Russia held in Istanbul in March-April 2022, but in the end Kiev did not sign due to pressure from the West.

“There is talk again of returning to negotiations. Let them start again! But let them start not from what one side wants (…) but from the current situation! We are ready,” he pointed out. Putin.

During a visit to China last Friday, he said he was ready to negotiate with Kiev on the basis of a peace accord that was not finalized at talks in Istanbul, and later said he had been “cheated” by the West into withdrawing his troops. from northern Ukraine and the suburbs of Kiev in exchange for a promise to sign a peace deal.

However, at a press conference in Minsk, Vladimir Putin contested the legitimacy of his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky, whose mandate expired on May 20, and issued a decree banning any talks with the current Kremlin leader until the fall of 2022.

“With whom to negotiate? This is not a trivial question (…) Russia knows that the legitimacy of the current head of state (of Ukraine) has expired”, and negotiations with Russia must be “absolute”. A “power is legitimate,” Putin referred to Zelensky.

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“One of the purposes of the conference announced in Switzerland is to confirm the legitimacy of the Ukrainian president to members of the Western community, supporters of the current regime in Kiev,” the Russian president said. Except for Russia, to an international conference hosted by Switzerland in mid-June.

Sources close to Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told the Swiss conference that the Kremlin leader’s alleged agreement to a ceasefire on the current front would fail.

“Why are Russian sources suddenly telling the media that Putin is ready to end the war on the current battlefield? It’s simple: Putin is actively trying to derail the June 15-16 peace summit in Switzerland,” the Ukrainian minister said. The message was posted on the X platform.

The respective conference, hosted by Switzerland, has been organized at Ukraine’s request in an effort to garner broad international support for Kiev’s “peace formula.”

The formula, announced by Zelensky at the end of 2022, calls for the withdrawal of all Russian troops from Ukrainian territory, the restoration of Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders, and the creation of an international court to try Russian war crimes, demands Russia has flatly rejected. , which insists that Ukraine must accept “new realities on the ground”, namely that following the invasion launched in February 2022, about 18% of Ukraine’s territory remains under Russian control.

Four Russian sources familiar with the discussions in Putin’s entourage told Reuters on Friday, on condition of anonymity, that the Kremlin leader was open to ending the war in Ukraine with a current ceasefire. If Kiev and the West don’t respond, keep fighting.

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