Putin says Ukraine must withdraw troops to start peace talks

Putin said Russia would halt its offensive only if Ukraine fully withdraws its troops from the east and south and drops its bid for NATO membership

By AFP
June 15, 2024
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a press conference in Harbin, China, May 17, 2024. — Reuters

MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday demanded Ukraine effectively surrender to Moscow if it wants to open peace talks, drawing anger and rebukes from Kyiv and the West.

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In a combative speech in Moscow on the eve of a major Ukraine peace summit in Switzerland, Putin said Russia would halt its offensive only if Ukraine fully withdraws its troops from the east and south and drops its bid for NATO membership.

The countries have been locked in bloody conflict for more than two years, and no direct peace talks have been held since the first weeks of Russia´s campaign, when it was advancing on the Ukrainian capital.

Kyiv has called for Russia´s full withdrawal from its internationally recognised territory, including the annexed Crimean peninsula, as part of any peace deal.

President Volodymyr Zelensky, who hopes to marshal international support for that position this weekend, slammed Putin´s demands as a territorial “ultimatum” reminiscent of Adolf Hitler.

“Ukrainian troops must be completely withdrawn from the Donetsk People´s Republic, the Lugansk People´s Republic, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions,” Putin said in a televised address to Russian diplomats in Moscow.

Russia claimed to have annexed the four regions in 2022, despite not having full control over any of them.

The regional capitals of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia are still in Ukrainian hands -- meaning Putin is demanding Ukraine cede swathes of territory under its control.“As soon as Kyiv says it is ready to do this and begins really withdrawing troops and officially renounces plans to join NATO, we will immediately, literally that very minute, cease fire and begin talks,” Putin said. Russia was seeking “Ukraine´s neutral, non-aligned, non-nuclear status, its demilitarisation and de-Nazification,” he added.

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