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Only Putin can end Ukrainian conflict – Italian ex-PM

Only Russian President Vladimir Putin can bring an end to the ongoing conflict between Moscow and Kiev, Italy’s former prime minister Mario Draghi has claimed. Russia, for its part, has repeatedly said it is open to talks, since negotiations with Kiev in Istanbul fell through in March.

“The prospects for peace are difficult even if a lot has changed in the last period: the channels of communication are much more open and China seems to be more active in staging negotiations,” Draghi stated, in an exclusive interview with the Corriere della Sera daily published on Saturday. He added that it was still only up to the Russian leadership to end its offensive against Ukraine.

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During his time in office, Draghi became one of the most vocal proponents of Ukraine in the West, sending weaponry as well as rallying international support for the country. His support for Kiev ultimately became one of the reasons for Draghi’s downfall, as a disagreement over arms shipments caused a split in the Five Star Movement party, toppling his coalition government.

Still, the former PM stood by his policies, claiming that his strong support for Ukraine has thwarted Russia’s plans, as Moscow allegedly hoped for “ambiguity” in Rome.

“I was aware of the strong past ties between Italy and Moscow, but we could not remain passive in the face of unmotivated aggression and systematic violations of international law and human rights,” Draghi stated.

“However, the Kremlin has so far shown that it does not want peace,” he went on.

Moscow has repeatedly signaled readiness to negotiate with Ukraine but insists that any talks must take Russia’s interests into account. Russia has also blamed the lack of any diplomatic effort to end the conflict on Kiev and its willingness to continue hostilities.

READ MORE: Kremlin comments on Kiev’s purported peace plan

Moreover, top Ukrainian officials have repeatedly pledged to reconquer the formerly-Ukrainian regions of Donetsk, Lugansk, Kherson, and Zaporozhye – which formally joined Russia in early October – as well as Crimea, which has been part of Russia since a 2014 referendum. And Ukrainian president Vladimir Zelensky has formally ‘banned’ himself from negotiating with the Russian president altogether.

The countries were on the verge of striking a peace deal after talks in Istanbul in late March. At that time they inked a proposed agreement, which would have given Ukraine international security guarantees in exchange for neutral status. Kiev pulled out of the talks soon afterwards, with Zelensky claiming that fresh evidence of war crimes allegedly committed by Russian troops had left him no other option. Moscow rejected the accusations, calling the evidence falsified.

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