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Putin 'ready' for talks with West over Ukraine: Lavrov

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)
Russia's President Vladimir Putin (L) and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says President Vladimir Putin is "ready" to hold negotiations with the West over Ukraine, where Moscow has been staging a military operation since February.

"[We are] ready to talk with the West about reducing tensions," Lavrov said on Sunday, adding Russia's leadership, "especially Putin, is still ready for negotiations regarding Ukraine."

The prospect of negotiation would, however, realize "only if there are realistic proposals based on an equal approach," Lavrov added.

The top diplomat noted that Putin had repeatedly said that Russia had never turned down an offer of negotiations, saying it was "Ukraine [that refused talks] under direct instructions from its Western sponsors."

Russia launched the "special military operation" in Ukraine in late February in order to defend the pro-Russian population in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk against persecution by Kiev.

Back in 2014, the two republics broke away from Ukraine, refusing to recognize a Western-backed Ukrainian government there that had overthrown a democratically-elected Russia-friendly administration.

'Parallels with Cuban crisis'

Speaking separately, Lavrov drew an analogy between the situation in Ukraine and the Cuban crisis of the 1962, when the Soviet Union and the United States came close to a nuclear war.

At the time, US President John F Kennedy found out that Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev had allegedly deployed nuclear missiles on Cuba.

In October 1962, a Soviet submarine captain wanted to launch a nuclear weapon after the US Navy dropped depth charges around the submarine.

Kennedy secretly agreed to remove all US missiles from Turkey in exchange for Khrushchev's removing the nuclear projectiles from Cuba.

Lavrov said there were "similarities" between the status quo in Ukraine and the Cuban crisis, mainly because Russia was now threatened by Western weapons in Ukraine.

"This situation is very disturbing. The difference is that in the distant 1962, Khrushchev and Kennedy found the strength to show responsibility and wisdom," he said, regretting that "now, we do not see such readiness on the part of Washington and its satellites."

Russia has denounced the US and its Western allies  for pumping Ukraine full of weapons, and training the ex-Soviet republic's soldiers.

They West, Moscow says, has been doing so to drag out the fighting as long as possible in spite of the victims, in order to wear down and weaken Russia.

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