- Vladimir Putin is believed to have agreed to attend negotiations in person
- Russian President thought to have said he will meet Zelensky ‘at some point’
- But he has not yet made any official statements or spoken to the media
- President Zelensky has been asking for a meeting since January with Putin
- Deputy Olha Stefanishyna said Ukraine would ‘absolutely not’ give up territory
Vladimir Putin has reportedly ‘finally agreed to meet in person with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for peace talks. The Russian tyrant will allegedly meet Zelensky ‘at some point’, the Express reported, after the Ukrainian leader accused Russia of ‘war crimes’ amid the bombing of an art school and theatre in Mariupol where civilians were sheltering.
The two leaders have let their diplomatic teams conduct peace talks on the neutral ground ever since the conflict began on February 24 to no avail, but a BBC correspondent today confirmed the two will meet in person. Putin has come to terms with the fact he will have to lead the negotiations at some time in the future, the BBC’s Lyse Doucet said.
‘The diplomats are talking, the negotiators are talking. We understand President Putin has finally agreed that he will meet, at some point, President Zelensky who has been asking for a meeting since January,’ she said. ‘He hasn’t said it in public, he says quite the opposite in public.’
Zelensky yesterday declared that Russia will ‘go down in the history of responsibility for war crimes, and admonished the invaders’ bombardment and siege of southern port city Mariupol, which has for weeks been pounded by airstrikes and missiles. ‘To do this to a peaceful city… is a terror that will be remembered for centuries to come,’ the Ukrainian leader said. He added that peace talks with Russia are despite being ‘not easy and pleasant.
Mariupol, a key connection to the Black Sea, has been a target since the start of the war on February 24, when Putin launched what he calls a ‘special military operation’ to demilitarise and ‘denazify’ Ukraine. Ukraine and the West say Putin launched an unprovoked war of aggression.
The UN human rights office said at least 847 civilians had been killed and 1,399 wounded in Ukraine as of Friday. The Ukrainian prosecutor general’s office said 112 children have been killed. Russia has also bombarded an art school and a theatre where hundreds of civilians had been sheltering from airstrikes.
Satellite images, released on Saturday, showed the collapsed remains of the theatre where more than 1,300 people, including women and babies, are still feared trapped. According to reports, Kyiv has insisted on the inclusion of one or more Western nuclear powers in future negotiations with the Kremlin and on legally binding security guarantees for Ukraine.
But Chancellor Rishi Sunak today urged a ‘degree of skepticism’ over any potential peace deal in Ukraine, as an official in Zelensky’s office told AP that the main subject discussed between the two sides last week was whether Russian troops would remain in separatist regions in eastern Ukraine after the war and where the borders would lie.
Mr. Sunak maintained it was ‘too early to tell who would act as the guarantor, but did not rule out the possibility of the UK stepping into the role. ‘I think the most important thing is that any talk of a settlement must be on Ukraine’s terms,’ Sunak told Sky News.
‘And the best thing we can do is just maintain the significant pressure that we are bringing to bear on Putin, but also provide support to the Ukrainians in the meantime – that’s the best we can do and the Ukrainians will take the lead.’ Zelensky also said today he discussed the course of peace talks with French President Emmanuel Macron yesterday.
‘Ukraine has always sought a peaceful solution. Moreover, we are interested in peace now,’ he said. Meanwhile, Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Olha Stefanishyna today told Sky News that her nation will not cede any territory to Russia in future peace talks. ‘Ukrainian territory is a territory which has been fixed in 1991,’ she said.
‘Within its entirety and internationally recognized border, it’s not only the position of Ukraine, but it’s also the position of the whole world enshrined in numerous decisions of the UN Security Council… so that is not an option for discussion. ‘Of course, there might be room for discussion on the reintegration of those territories that have been under occupation for the last eight years.’
‘I can say that the feeling of the political priority is still there, while the ultimate agenda of today is the ceasefire and the security guarantees.’ The deputy prime minister said she believed genocide is being committed against the Ukrainian people.
‘I absolutely believe it (is a genocide). I am a lawyer myself and I commit myself to implementation of the decision,’ she declared. She referred to the ruling of the International Court of Justice in the Hague, which has urged Russia to ‘immediately suspend the military operations’ it began on February 24 in Ukraine.
‘We know that the words of the ruling, the orders, mean nothing to the Russian Federation, but it’s not something I presume or anybody else presumes, this is the reality,’ she said. ‘Putin and the Kremlin are the worst criminals. ‘They commit the worst crimes and they’re doing a targeted attempt on the Ukrainian population… it’s not a question, it’s simply the reality we are all facing in the 21st century.’