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Russia responds to Zelensky’s call for talks

A veiled appeal by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for direct peace talks with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin contradicts Kiev’s decision to freeze all negotiations with Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov pointed out on Friday. Then again, the Ukrainian government has a habit of taking positions that contradict each other, he added.

Zelensky said he had wanted to negotiate with Putin on multiple occasions both before and after Russia attacked his country. One of the recent remarks of that nature came this week on a video call during a working breakfast of the World Economic Forum in Davos.

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The Ukrainian president said Putin was the only Russian official worth talking to, dismissing the rest of the Russian government as “nobodies.” Putin himself is delusional, Zelensky claimed, but “if he is able to realize” what the Ukrainian leader called the reality, “then, probably, we may try and go the diplomatic way, unless it is too late.”

When asked for comments about the remarks, Peskov said Moscow didn’t believe Kiev was willing to negotiate peace.

“The talks have been frozen after a decision by and in accordance with the stance of the Ukrainian side,” he said.

“The Ukrainian leadership constantly makes statements that contradict each other, which makes it impossible to fully understand its intentions and whether it is ready to take a sober approach and acknowledge the real state of affairs,” he added.

Zelensky and other Ukrainian officials have been repeatedly stating that their forces were winning the fight against Russia and that the only question was how long it would take for Kiev to prevail and at what cost. The Ukrainian president previously said talks with Russia would only be possible after Ukraine returns control over all territories it lost during the three-month-long Russian campaign. Kiev also wants Crimea to be returned after the hostilities are over.

However, the Ukrainian side suffered several military defeats this month, and the president’s office has been struggling to contain the negative publicity as a result. For example, the surrender of hundreds of Ukrainian troops in Mariupol was described by Kiev as an “evacuation” that Ukrainian intelligence agents supposedly helped organize.

This week, Russian troops took control of Liman, a strategically important town in Donbass. Even Zelensky’s advisers acknowledged that the situation on the ground was playing out poorly for Ukraine.

Russia attacked the neighboring state in late February, following Ukraine’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, first signed in 2014, and Moscow’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The German- and French-brokered protocols were designed to give the breakaway regions special status within the Ukrainian state.

The Kremlin has since demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.

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