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Russia tells Ukraine to ‘reflect’ on its call to withdraw troops

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov in Moscow in 2021. (AP File Photo)

Moscow has told Kiev to "reflect" on its call to withdraw its forces from Russian-speaking areas separated from Ukraine in referendums.

Russian presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov said on Sunday Ukraine should “reflect” on President Vladimir Putin’s call to withdraw the Kiev forces from the east and south of the country to open peace talks as the military situation for the troops worsens on the battlefield.

"At one time, Zelensky came to power under the banner of peace and the intention to establish peace, to save Ukraine. He always said that he did not hold on to the chair, he always said that he was ready to do anything for the sake of his Motherland. Let’s see if he is ready for anything so as not to further worsen the situation," Peskov said. 

He made the remarks in an interview with VGTRK journalist Pavel Zarubin as Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky and world leaders met in Switzerland to discuss how to end the years-long Ukrainian war against neighboring Russia.

Putin had pointed out in an earlier announcement that the conditions for future peace talks between Moscow and Kiev were set by Russia, and any new proposal on settling the conflict would require Ukraine to recognize the status of Crimea, the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, as well as the Kherson and Zaporozhye Regions as part of Russian territory.

The Russian leader said Ukraine must declare the cancellation of its bid for membership in the NATO military alliance, as well as its non-nuclear status. In addition, Putin said, the anti-Russian sanctions must be lifted. Apart from that, Putin pointed out, that Ukraine should pull its troops from the Donbas republics and the Kherson and Zaporozhye regions before peace talks begin.

On Friday, Zelensky claimed Putin's peace-talk conditions were an ultimatum that cannot be accepted.

"The current dynamics of the state of affairs on the fronts clearly show us that it will continue to worsen for Ukrainians. Probably, a politician who puts the interests of the Motherland above his own and even above his masters would think about such a proposal. Let’s see what happens," Peskov said.

He told Zelensky it was not an “ultimatum” but “a peace initiative that takes into account the realities on the ground.”

Meantime, Zelensky and his Western backers have rejected Russia's calls for peace talks between Kiev and Moscow.

Russia launched its special military operation in eastern Ukraine in February 2022 to stop NATO’s eastward expansion after warning that the US-led military alliance was pursuing an “aggressive line” against Russian-speaking regions.

US-led Western countries supporting the former Soviet republic responded by imposing waves of harsh sanctions against Russia, and by pouring multiple huge shipments of advanced arms, ammo and military hardware into Ukraine.

Putin has repeatedly stated Western countries' backing of Kiev's war against Moscow, and the West's continued supply of Western-made weapons and ammunition to the Ukrainian forces, would only prolong the war and postpone the peace talks that will eventually take place between the two neighboring countries with a long history of co-existence.

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