Ukraine threatens to quit peace talks with Russia
Kiev's'red lines have been identified, according to Zelensky.
On Saturday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky indicated what kind of events could compel his country to withdraw from peace talks with Moscow.
During a news conference conducted at one of Kiev's metro stations amid the war, Zelensky was asked how his government would respond to future independence referendums in Russian-controlled territory. The president admitted that it would compel him to halt any negotiations with Moscow.
“If our people are destroyed in Mariupol, if a referendum, a pseudo-referendum, is announced in any new pseudo-republics of Ukraine, Ukraine will withdraw from any negotiations process,” Zelensky said.
Moscow announced the seizure of Mariupol two days earlier. However, President Vladimir Putin put off the assault on the Azovstal factory, which remains the final stronghold of Ukrainian soldiers in the vital port city, including members from the neo-Nazi Azov regiment.
Putin instead directed Russian forces to "close the area so that a fly cannot get through." Meanwhile, Zelensky confirmed that Ukraine is currently unable to recapture Mariupol militarily and that the fighters holed up there are aware of this.
Zelensky underlined his desire to meet with Vladimir Putin in person because "the war may be terminated by the person who started it." He explained that, in his opinion, direct negotiations may be a more efficient approach to achieving peace than speaking through mediators.
“I want to stop the war and end it. There is a diplomatic path and a military one. Any healthy person chooses the diplomatic path because he knows that even if it is difficult, it can prevent the loss of millions of people,” Zelensky said.
Meanwhile, Putin has not ruled out a personal meeting with Zelensky but has emphasized that it would be contingent on the outcome of negotiations between the negotiating teams.
Guterres to Moscow
In response to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres' impending visit to Moscow, Zelensky stated that it is illogical for him to fly to Russia before speaking with Kiev, but the Ukrainian leader emphasized his willingness to meet with Guterres as well.
According to Zelensky, Ukraine's prerequisites for a peace settlement remain the same: security assurances for Kiev and "the fate of Donbass and Crimea," the independence of which Kiev has refused to accept.
“I think there are no more issues,” he said.
Meanwhile, Zelensky stated that Ukrainian forces would continue fighting and, depending on arms supplies from the West, would retake territory gained by Russian forces. “My position as president is: whatever they [Russian forces] occupy, we will return. It will not be a matter of 8 years, like in 2014, it will be immediate. This is a matter of weapons. If we have enough of them, we will immediately begin to recapture the occupied territory,” he said.
Russia has frequently cautioned NATO against supplying armaments to Ukraine, and has declared that munitions convoys would be considered valid military targets. It further claims that "filling up" Ukraine with armaments will result in even more fatalities.
Since Russia's operation began, Moscow and Kiev have accused one other of impeding civilian evacuations, as well as committing war crimes and violating international law. Several rounds of peace talks have resulted in no substantial progress.