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Ukraine's president reiterates readiness to talk to Putin

By Natalia Zinets
FILE PHOTO: Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy attends a session of a parliament where British Prime Minister Boris Johnson addresses Ukrainian lawmakers via videolink, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Kyiv, Ukraine May 3, 2022. Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via REUTERS

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has reiterated an offer to hold direct talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and said Russia's withdrawal from Ukraine should be the starting point for any discussions.

"As president, I am ready to talk to Putin, but only to him. Without any of his intermediaries. And in the framework of dialogue, not ultimatums," he told Italy's RAI 1 television in an interview shown in Ukraine on Friday.

Ukraine and Russia have not held face-to-face peace talkssince March 29. Russian chief negotiator Vladimir Medinsky was quoted by Interfax news agency on Monday as saying peace talks were being held remotely.

Putin told German Chancellor Olaf Scholz by telephone on Friday that progress in negotiations over an end to the conflict had been "essentially blocked by Kyiv," the Kremlin said. Kyiv blames Moscow for the lack of progress.

In his fullest public comments for weeks on the prospects of peace talks, Zelenskiy said Ukraine would not compromise over its territorial integrity.

He ruled out suggestions - which he attributed to Paris - that Ukraine should make concessions for the sake of securing a peace agreement that would allow Putin to save face.

"Get out of this territory that you have occupied since February 24," he said. "This is the first clear step to talking about anything."

Russian forces have taken control of the southern city of Mariupol but are struggling to make headway in Ukraine's north and east after abandoning a push towards Kyiv.

Russia also controls the Crimea peninsula, which it seized and annexed in 2014, and Russia-backed separatists have declared "people's republics" in areas they control in two provinces in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine.

Zelenskiy said Kyiv had offered to keep Crimea out of talks for now if it complicated efforts to end the war or made talks between him and Putin more complicated. But he added: "We will never recognise Crimea as part of the Russian Federation."

(Editing by Timothy Heritage)

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Dive Deeper:
Ukraine latest updates: Zelenskyy ‘ready’ for talks with Putin
Ukraine news from May 13: Ukraine’s Zelenskyy says he is prepared to hold discussions with Putin over ending war.
Putin and Scholz discuss 'blocked' Ukraine peace talks - Kremlin
(Makes clear in second paragraph that the Kremlin said talks between Russia and Germany, not Russia and Ukraine, would continue…
German leader has 75-minute phone call with Putin, Ukraine says ready for talks
German government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit said the call was focused on the ongoing war in Ukraine and efforts to end…
Russia’s Black Sea blockade pushing millions towards famine, G7 says
Foreign ministers call for action to allow export of Ukrainian grain, as Kyiv claims Russian withdrawal from second-largest city
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Zelenskiy thanks visiting US senators and says Donbas situation is ‘very difficult’ – as it happened
President tells US officials that Donbas situation remains ‘very difficult’; A large convoy of hundreds of cars carrying refugees reaches…
Russia-Ukraine war: Joe Biden expresses support for right of Finland and Sweden to join Nato– as it happened
Ukraine president ready to speak to Putin ‘but only to him’; electricity supplier RAO Nordic says decision to suspend Finnish…
Get all your news in one place