Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the Ukrainian President, has called Russia’s Vladimir Putin “nobody” but said he was not interested in speaking with him.
In an exclusive interview with Kay Burley Sky News, the comments reinforce his government’s position regarding peace negotiations. They cannot take place while Vladimir Putin is president.
This strongly held sentiment is fuelled by outrage at the horror, pain, and death that Russian forces have inflicted upon Ukraine in the past 11 months at the request of their commander-in-chief.
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Some Western diplomats are unsure if it is sensible to keep such a red line if there is increased pressure to end the war and Mr Putin, 70 remains in power.
They suggest that it would be more helpful for the Ukrainians to lift this condition in order to increase the likelihood of dialogue at a time when Kyiv is relative in strength after having launched successful counter-offensives in the northeastern and south to recapture territory. The Western allies are still strong supporters of the war with heavy weaponry, including tanks.
These diplomats are concerned that the war will drag on for too long, increasing the chance that the balance might shift towards Russia, possibly weakening Ukraine‘s hand.
Mr Zelenskyy 45 made it clear that he wasn’t in the mood for compromise.
When asked if he would consider peace negotiations with Russia, the president replied: “So far, there aren’t peace talks. Because… we don’t know who to negotiate with and about what.
“What kind peace talks?” These are criminals who arrived here to kill and rape. They have been doing that for years.”
Zelenskyy is ‘not interested in meeting’ with ‘nobody’ Putin for peace negotiations
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He stated that any conversation could only take place under new leadership once all Russian forces have been withdrawn from Ukraine.
The president stated that Russia should withdraw its troops from their territory and admit to its big mistakes. He hoped for a new government.
“We are neighbors. Only then will we be able to resolve this situation. Talks will likely then be possible.
What if he was in a room with Putin alone? What would Mr. Zelenskyy think?
He answered in English: “It’s not interesting to me.” It was not interesting to meet him, and it wasn’t interesting to talk to him… He is nothing to me after a full-scale invasion. He is not interesting, and I have no plans to make any decisions.”
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These words seemed to touch a nerve at the Kremlin.
Dmitry Peskov was the Russian president’s spokesperson and he responded to a question regarding Mr Zelenskyy’s comments with insults.
He stated that the president of Ukraine “has long ceased being a potential opponent for Putin”.
The prospect of any type of negotiated settlement to fighting seems as distant as ever. This means that the war in Ukraine is likely to rage on and become more bloody as both parties attempt to launch new offensives for breaking the winter deadlock.