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Russia-Ukraine peace talks stall as war enters ‘protracted phase’

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A Ukrainian soldier looks at a civilian crossing a blown-up bridge in a village, east of the town of Brovary, on March 6, 2022. (Photo by AFP)

Peace talks between Russia and Ukraine have stalled, with the two sides trading accusations over the breakdown of the negotiations.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko said on Tuesday that Ukraine had "practically withdrawn from the negotiation process," blaming Kiev for not agreeing to Moscow's terms.

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak confirmed that the talks were "on hold," saying Russia was not willing to accept that the negotiations "will not achieve any goals."

Following the announcements, Russia accused Ukraine of hardening its stance and the West of bolstering the government in Kiev, indicating that a return to talks might be difficult.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Western countries wanted to use Ukraine to their strategic advantage, arguing that no peace deal could be made if negotiators focused on the West's concerns rather than the immediate situation in Ukraine.

"We always say that we are ready for negotiations... but we were given no other choice," he said.

Lavrov said that the West had been preparing tools, such as NATO, to contain Russia since the late 1990s, stressing that all those years, Russia had been insisting on negotiations but had been ignored.

"Now we will solve problems depending on how we see them. I will always emphasize: we are ready to solve humanitarian issues," he said.

Russian negotiator Leonid Slutsky also said the US State Department should not try to create "conditions" through military assistance to Kiev, while announcing that peace talks between Russia and Ukraine were not being conducted in any format.

Meanwhile, US State Department spokesperson Ned Price has said it is up to Ukraine to define its own objectives in talks with Russia to end the war.

"It is not for us to define the objectives that our Ukrainian partners seek to achieve," Price said. "It is the task of the Ukrainian government, which is in turn expressing the will of the Ukrainian people."

Washington's "task" is to support Kiev, he added.

Ukraine and Russia have held intermittent peace talks since late February, days after Russia attacked its neighbor, but there had been little communication between them in recent weeks.

The previous rounds of talks had failed to produce a breakthrough, as both the warring sides had refused to compromise on their respective red lines.

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the military offensive against Ukraine on February 24.The conflict has provoked a unanimous response from Western countries, which have imposed a long list of sanctions on Moscow. 

The United States and its Western allies have also stepped up military support for Ukraine, sending a wide array of defensive weapons meant to hold off Russia's advance.

Russia says it will halt the operation instantly if Kiev meets Moscow's list of demands, including never applying to join NATO.

War in Ukraine enters 'protracted phase'

Meanwhile, Ukraine's Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov has said the war with Russia is entering "a protracted phase."

In his speech to NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and European Union defense ministers on Tuesday, Reznikov said, "Russia is preparing for a long-term military operation."

He said Russian forces were currently building fortifications in the Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions in order to "move to defense if necessary."

Reznikov said the main efforts of the Kremlin were focused on "encircling and destroying groups of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in Donetsk and Lugansk regions, creating and maintaining a land corridor from Russia to Crimea, and completing the occupation of southern Ukraine."

He called on Ukraine's Western allies to coordinate more to deliver arms to the country so it can "liberate territories as soon as possible."

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