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Ukraine preparing for ‘decisive’ battle against Russia

Ukraine is gearing up for a major battle against Russia in the country’s southeast, President Volodymyr Zelensky said Saturday during a joint press conference with Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer in Kiev. At the same time, however, Ukraine is looking for “certain diplomatic ways” to end the ongoing conflict, Zelensky added.

“We see preparations for an important – and some say decisive – battle,” he claimed.

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“In the east, and not only in the east, but also in the south, there is an accumulation of troops. {There is} a large number of troops, equipment, armed people who are going to occupy another part of our territories. It will be a difficult battle. We believe in our struggle, we believe in our victory,” Zelensky said.

At the same time, the Ukrainian president reiterated that the country has always been “ready for negotiations” with Moscow. While gearing up for the upcoming battle in the southeast, Kiev “looks for certain diplomatic ways that can stop this war,” he added.

READ MORE: Ukraine offered ‘heavier’ arms

Zelensky also pledged to take Nehammer to the town of Bucha, a northwestern suburb of Kiev that Ukraine claims to be the site of an alleged mass killing of civilians, which it has blamed on Russian troops. Moscow has firmly denied any involvement in the deaths, suggesting that Kiev manipulated evidence to frame the Russian military.

Nehammer, for his part, called for an investigation of the Bucha incident and urged a probe to be launched with broad international involvement.

“Bucha is a place where terrible crimes have taken place, and it is necessary that people, members of the UN study these crimes, that international justice begins to work on this, that international criminal justice should gradually fight these crimes,” Nehammer said during the press conference.

In recent days, Bucha has become a hotspot for Western media and top officials alike. On Friday, the town was toured by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and the EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell, who examined the site of the alleged atrocity.

READ MORE: Russia accuses Ukraine of ‘barbarism’

Moscow sent troops into Ukraine in late February, following Kiev’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements signed in 2014, and Russia’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk.

The German and French brokered Minsk Protocol was designed to give the breakaway regions special status within the Ukrainian state.

Russia has since demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military alliance. 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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