Russia says President Vladimir Putin will visit the breakaway Donbas region in eastern Ukraine “in due course,” as tensions grow over the war in the former Soviet state.
“It will certainly happen in due course because it is part of the Russian Federation,” the Kremlin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian news agencies on Saturday, without indicating an exact date.
The Kremlin has already rejected US President Joe Biden’s conditions for talks with Putin over the war in Ukraine.
Speaking alongside French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday, Biden said the only path to ending the war in Ukraine was the withdrawal of Russian troops. Biden said if Putin seeks to end the war, he is ready to talk with him.
In response, Peskov said Putin was ready for any negotiations, but Russia will not withdraw from Ukraine. Peskov told reporters the Russian president is always ready to negotiate to ensure the interests of his country.
The Kremlin’s spokesman said Washington’s refusal to recognize the "new territories" as part of the Russian territory prevented any potential compromise. “This significantly complicates the search for mutual ground for discussions.”
In late September, Putin signed a decree for the formal accession of four regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia to the Russian Federation. That was after people in the four regions voted in favor of joining Russia in a referendum. However, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the hastily organized votes breached international law and called the referendums “worthless.”
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also depicted Russia’s accession as “a dangerous escalation,” while Biden said Washington will never recognize Russia’s accession of Ukrainian territory.
The referendums came seven months into Russia's “special military operation” in Ukraine, which was launched on February 24, following Kiev’s failure to implement the terms of the 2014 Minsk agreements and Moscow’s recognition of Donetsk and Luhansk. At the time, President Putin said one of the goals of the operation was to “de-Nazify” Ukraine, as well as to defend people "who for eight years are suffering persecution and genocide by the Kiev regime.”