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Russia: Ukraine constantly changing position on agreed issues at peace talks

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov

Russia says Ukraine is not consistent in its stance on peace talks, accusing Kiev of constantly changing position on the already agreed issues.

“Contacts continue at an expert level within the framework of the negotiation process,” the Kremlin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said at a conference call on Monday. “Unfortunately the Ukrainian side is not consistent in terms of the points that have been agreed.”

Russian and Ukrainian negotiators have so far failed to achieve a breakthrough to abate the conflict on the ground. Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a “special military operation” on February 24 to demilitarize Donetsk and Luhansk, largely populated by ethnic Russians, in eastern Ukraine. The United States and its European allies have labeled the military operation “Putin’s land grab,” imposing waves of unprecedented sanctions on Moscow.

Kiev “is often changing its position and the trend of the negotiating process leaves much to be desired,” Peskov added.

The Kremlin says it will halt its military activities instantly if Kiev meets Russia’s list of demands, including never applying to join NATO. Washington justifies NATO’s enlargement as a move in response to Russia’s operation.

Turkey, a NATO member with close ties to both Moscow and Kiev, hosted and mediated peace talks between high-ranking Russian and Ukrainian negotiators late last month. Turkey is also the only country that had managed to bring together the warring sides and has been encouraging both sides to continue negotiations.

Moscow: There is still time to switch to payments for gas in rubles

Elsewhere in his remarks on Monday, Peskov said there was still time for “unfriendly” countries to shift to payments for the Russian gas in rubles. He did not give information on how many countries have agreed to do so.

The punitive Western measures have already cut Russia off the global financial network, blocking access of some of its top banks to the international SWIFT banking messaging system. Some traders have already begun to refuse Russian oil cargoes, putting pressure on Moscow’s finances.

The Kremlin, which has labeled sanction-imposing countries “unfriendly,” has introduced capital controls for the sanctions, making it almost impossible for foreign investors to sell their assets, both industrial and financial, if they decide to pull out of Russia.

Russia has introduced the United States, Canada, Britain, the EU states and Ukraine, among others, as the “unfriendly” countries.

Late last month, Putin signed a decree demanding that foreign buyers pay for gas in rubles or else have their supplies cut, a move rejected by European countries. Germany termed it “blackmail.” Peskov says payments for deliveries that took place after Putin’s decree took effect were expected in May.

For years, Russia has been devising means to wean itself from dependence on the US dollar in international trade in commodities such gas and oil, and to replace it with other national currencies, in particular the Russian ruble.

Captive pro-Russian politician suggests prisoner swap for Mariupol forces

Senior pro-Russian politician Viktor Medvedchuk, a Ukrainian national, appealed in a video released by Ukraine’s security service on Monday to be handed over to Russian authorities in a prisoner swap for Ukrainian troops and civilians trapped in the besieged port city of Mariupol.

Medvedchuk, who made the appeal to Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky, is a trained Ukrainian lawyer and the leader of the pro-Russian Opposition Platform - For Life party, He is alleged to have been Putin’s pick to replace Zelensky as a puppet leader.

The 67-year-old politician said in the video that he was making a “plea for the Ukrainian side to exchange me for the defenders of Mariupol and its citizens who are there today have no opportunity for a safe exit through a humanitarian corridor.”

Last year, Medvedchuk was placed under house arrest to face treason and terrorism financing charges. He denies the charges.

Earlier this month, Zelensky proposed swapping Medvedchuk for Ukraine’s male and female prisoners of war being kept by Russian forces. The Kremlin, however, denied the swap offer with Peskov saying Medvedchuk is “not a citizen of Russia” and has nothing to do with Putin’s “special military operation” in Ukraine.

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