KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine’s president has hinted he is open to peace talks with Russia, softening his earlier refusal to negotiate with Moscow while President Vladimir Putin is in power — while sticking Kyiv’s requirements.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s appeal to the international community on Monday night to ‘force Russia into real peace talks’ reflected a change of rhetoric for a man who signed a decree in late September declaring ‘the impossibility of holding talks’ with Putin. But since his preconditions appear to be non-starters for Moscow, it’s hard to see how Zelenskyy’s latest comments would move the talks forward.
Zelenskyy reiterated that his conditions for dialogue were the return of all occupied lands of Ukraine, compensation for damages caused by war and the prosecution of war crimes.
Western weapons and aid have been essential to Ukraine’s ability to fight off the Russian invasion, which some initially expected would tear the country apart with relative ease. But Tuesday’s US midterm elections will define the amount and form of Washington’s future political and financial support for Ukraine.
While that backing has garnered strong bipartisan support in the U.S. Congress, growing conservative opposition could complicate that next year if Republicans take control of the House.
Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy’s recent comments that lawmakers would not give Ukraine a “blank cheque” reflected more clearly the party’s growing skepticism about the cost of supporting Kyiv.
Privately, Republican lawmakers who support aid to Ukraine say there may be an opportunity to pass another aid tranche this year with the current Congress.
Russia and Ukraine held several rounds of talks in Belarus and Turkey at the start of the war, which is now approaching its nine-month mark, and Zelensky even initially called for a personal meeting with Putin – which the Kremlin ruled out. .
The talks have stalled after the last meeting of the delegations, held in Istanbul in March, yielded no results.
Zelenskyy said on Monday that Kyiv has “offered (talks) several times and to which we have always received crazy Russian responses with new terrorist attacks, bombings or blackmail”.
Russia resumed calls for talks after the start of Ukraine’s successful counteroffensive in the east and south of the country in September – but since Putin illegally annexed four regions of Ukraine, Kyiv has rejected the possibility of negotiating with him.
Zelenskyy on Monday listed the conditions for the dialogue to begin, including the “restoration of the territorial integrity (of Ukraine)…compensation for all war damages, punishment for every war criminal and guarantees that it won’t happen again.”
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko stressed on Tuesday that Moscow poses no conditions for the resumption of talks and accused Kyiv of lacking “good will”.
“It’s their choice, we have always said that we are ready for such negotiations,” Rudenko said.
Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak insisted in a tweet on Monday that “Ukraine has never refused to negotiate” but first Russia must withdraw its troops from the country. “Is Putin ready? Obviously not,” Podolyak wrote.
In other developments:
— In the eastern region of Donetsk, which the Russians are struggling to take full control of, shelling from Moscow has killed three civilians and injured seven others in the past 24 hours, according to Donetsk Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko.
Kyrylenko said the deaths occurred in the town of Bakhmut, a key target of Russia’s brutal offensive in Donetsk, and in the town of Krasnohorivka. Last week, Ukraine’s deputy defense minister described the Bakhmut region as the “epicenter” of fighting in eastern Ukraine.
– Elsewhere, two civilians were seriously injured by unexploded mines in the Kharkiv region of northeastern Ukraine, where Kyiv forces recaptured large swaths of territory in September, the governor of Kharkiv said , Oleh Syniehubov.
— In the partially occupied southern region of Kherson, where Ukrainian troops are waging a successful counteroffensive, Russian-installed authorities say they have “completed” measures to evacuate residents ahead of planned Ukrainian advances.
The Kremlin-appointed administration had sought to relocate tens of thousands of people in anticipation of a deeper Ukrainian advance in the region. Ukrainian military and civilian officials have previously described the resettlement measures as “forced displacement”. Kirill Stremousov, deputy head of the Kremlin-backed administration, has repeatedly denied this.
Russian-backed officials in Kherson announced that motorized ferries carrying civilians across the Dnieper and deeper into Russian-held territory were no longer operating. According to Monday’s announcement on Telegram, the main remaining relocation route is through the Antonivskiy Bridge, which Ukrainian attacks have repeatedly damaged and which is now operated by the Russian military.
The U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations has reassured Ukrainian farmers that extending a wartime agreement allowing the shipment of Ukrainian grain and other goods across the Black Sea is a priority for the country. UN. The deal is due to expire on November 19.
“I see Ukraine here as the breadbasket of the world. … This (war) has really had an impact on the entire global food market,” US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said during an interview with farmers and journalists at a grain warehouse in Kyiv. .
Sponsored by the UN and Turkey, the maritime initiative allowed more than 9 million tonnes of grain in 397 ships to leave Ukrainian ports and travel along a designated corridor. Russia briefly suspended its participation in the deal last week, alleging that a Ukrainian drone attacked its Black Sea Fleet in Crimea on October 29.
Karmanau reported from Tallinn, Estonia. Associated Press writer Farnoush Amiri contributed from Washington.
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