No prospect for peace talks with Ukraine: Kremlin
The Kremlin says Moscow will do everything to ensure its interests in the energy market and that all restrictive measures will be countered.
Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov considered on Wednesday that the special military operation in Ukraine shows certain positive trends but did not mention the liberation of Soledar.
"Let’s wait, let's not rush, let's wait for official statements," Peskov said, answering a question about the Kremlin's assessment of the liberation of Soledar.
The Russian diplomat pointed out that "success will be achieved when we have coped with the tasks set by the Supreme Commander in the course of the special military operation."
On Tuesday, Denis Pushilin, the acting head of the Russian Donetsk People's Republic (DPR), said the Russian Armed Forces have made strides in the town of Soledar, capturing its center after defeating the Ukrainian forces.
"According to the latest information, the center of Soledar is under the control of the Wagner division, and here the guys have gained ground on one side and the other. They are already effectively moving forward," Pushilin told Channel One.
Similarly, a senior US Defense Department official revealed on Monday that his country assessed that a good chunk of the city of Soledar was under the control of the Russian Armed Forces.
"We do think that there is a good portion of Soledar that the Russians have in their hands and the Ukrainians do as well. And these [artillery] exchanges are savage," the official told a press briefing.
The official noted that Bakhmut, which is located seven kilometers away from Soledar, has also become a field of "severe and savage" fighting, with the two sides shelling it with thousands of artillery rounds.
Both key towns are located in the Kiev-controlled part of the DPR, which became part of the Russian Federation in September following popular referenda in the region, alongside other neighboring regions.
Bakhmut has been an important transport hub for supplying the Ukrainian troops in the Donbass in light of the Ukraine war.
A US official confirmed during a press briefing on Wednesday that the Russian army has made "gradual progress in the city of Bakhmut," located on the western outskirts of the DPR region.
West irritated with corruption in Ukraine
On another level, the Kremlin Spokesperson considered that the irritation of Western countries is growing in connection with corruption in Ukraine after a cash influx to Kiev took place.
"We hear more or less rational voices that are tentatively questioning the efficiency of spending these large sums on Ukraine. You know that Ukraine also suffers from this disease — corruption. And of course, such cash influx is clearly being used not only for its intended purpose, and more and more people in the West understand this," Peskov explained.
The Russian diplomat indicated that Western countries continue to pump Ukraine with weapons, while these countries are having problems in a number of areas themselves.
"We are seeing certain problems with the military-industrial complex of these countries, with the depletion of their stocks of weapons and ammunition, but so far we see their declaration that, despite all the difficulties, they will continue to pump Ukraine," Peskov said.
No prospect for peace talks with Ukraine
Regarding peace talks to end the war, Peskov told reporters that no prospect for peace talks with Ukraine can be seen as long as dialogue with Russia remains banned by Ukrainian law or unless the West allows Kiev to be flexible in this regard.
According to the Russian Spokesperson, "Russia has always been ready to settle issues through negotiations," affirming that Russian President Vladimir Putin "has repeatedly said that we are still ready for this."
"Of course, we would prefer to attain our goals through peaceful and diplomatic ways," he added.
On December 22, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing anonymous American and European sources, that Ukraine was working on the final details of its "peaceful" conflict settlement proposal, which could be made public this February.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told a joint meeting of the US Congress, following his talks with President Joe Biden, that the two had discussed Kiev’s proposals to settle the Ukrainian conflict, adding that the US President supported Ukraine’s suggestion to hold a global "peace" summit to discuss these proposals.
However, Russian officials have repeatedly warned that any "peace plan" to end the Ukraine war should take the new realities into account, namely the accession of four new regions to Russia.
Moscow will ensure energy market interests by all means
In a separate context, Peskov stressed that Moscow will do everything to ensure its interests in the energy market, underlining that all restrictive measures will be opposed.
On Tuesday, Reuters reported, citing a G7 official, that the G7 countries want to set two price caps for Russian petroleum products in February — for those traded at a premium and at a discount to crude oil.
"Of course, Russia will do everything to ensure its interests. That is, any such restrictive measures that will be taken again will be countered. Russia will balance its interests. This can be said unequivocally. The market allows us to do this," Peskov indicated, answering a question about Russia's response to such actions will be.
Talks about losses of income from energy resources too premature
Elsewhere, the Kremlin Spokesperson considered that it is too premature to talk about any loss of income from energy resources by Russia, as there are no reasons for such forecasts.
The latest estimates by the Helsinki Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air claim that Russia's losses due to the oil price ceiling will be 160 billion euros ($171.7 billion). Helsinki expects that after the start of the embargo on February 5, this figure will rise to 280 billion euros.
"It is probably better to ask our specialists about this, primarily... Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak, but it is certainly too early [to talk about the matter] for now," Peskov told reporters.
The Russian official also recommended being skeptical about any conclusions about the alleged financial losses of Russia due to the oil price ceiling, saying that the possibilities of forecasting prices on world markets are very vague.
Read more: Russia: US abruptly left Afghanistan to focus on Ukraine