Diplomatic end to war in Ukraine demanded, but Moscow suggests West must accept occupation – The Irish Times

US and German leaders have urged the Kremlin to seek a diplomatic end to its war in Ukraine, but Moscow has suggested no substantive talks are possible until the West accepts Russia’s occupation of its neighbour’s territory.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has again defended Russian missile strikes that crippled much of Ukraine’s power grid earlier this winter as UN-appointed investigators sought to determine whether the attacks constituted crimes of war.

“I am ready to speak with Mr. Putin if there is in fact an interest in him deciding that he is looking for a way to end the war,” said US President Joe Biden, while clarifying that he had “no immediate plans” to talk to. 22-year-old leader of Russia.

“There is only one way to end this war – the rational way. Putin to withdraw from Ukraine, number one. But it seems that is not the case,” he added.

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Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov noted on Friday that “the first thing [Mr Biden] says is that Putin should leave Ukraine. He believes this would be a demonstration that Putin is ready for negotiations… The United States does not recognize new territories within the Russian Federation. This considerably complicates the search for common ground.

Mr Peskov insisted that Mr Putin was ‘open to talks’ but added that ‘without question the special military operation is continuing’, using the Russian term for a full-scale invasion which has killed thousands and displaced millions.

Russia announced in September that four partially occupied regions of eastern and southeastern Ukraine were now its sovereign territory, in violation of international law and despite being bogged down or pushed back in each; last month it lost control of Kherson, the only provincial capital it captured after launching an all-out war in February.

In a call with Mr Putin on Friday, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz “urged [him] reach a diplomatic solution as soon as possible, including the withdrawal of Russian troops” from Ukraine.

Spokesman Steffen Hebestreit said Mr Scholz “condemned in particular the Russian airstrikes against civilian infrastructure in Ukraine and underlined Germany’s determination to support Ukraine in ensuring defense capability against the Russian aggression”.

According to the Kremlin, Mr Putin said these missile strikes were “an unavoidable and unavoidable response to [Ukraine’s] provocative attacks on Russia’s civilian infrastructure,” accusing Kyiv of blowing up on a bridge connecting Russia to occupied Crimea and on Russian energy installations.

Mr. Putin also “highlighted the destructive policy of Western countries, including Germany, pumping [Ukraine] with weapons and training of the Ukrainian army. All of this, together with their overall political and financial support for Ukraine, leads [Kyiv] to reject any idea of ​​negotiations,” the Kremlin added.

As the UN’s Independent International Commission of Inquiry into Ukraine wrapped up its visit to Kyiv, one of its members, Jasminka Dzumhur, said it had “given considerable attention to the issue of the destruction of civilian infrastructure from the country “.

Another member, Pablo de Greiff, said they were looking at “whether the attacks constitute war crimes” and, if so, what the commission “can do to contribute to accountability for these crimes.”

As power cuts were again imposed to allow repairs to the national grid and heavy fighting continued near the town of Bakhmut in the eastern region of Donetsk, Ukraine moved to ban religious organizations tightly linked to the Russian state.

“We must create conditions where no actor dependent on the aggressor state will have the opportunity to manipulate Ukrainians and weaken Ukraine from within,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said, amid raids and investigations into Orthodox Church monasteries suspected of being centers of pro-Kremlin sentiment.

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