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Zelensky says he’s prepared to talk to Putin

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky reiterated his offer to hold direct talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin and said Russia’s withdrawal from Ukraine should be the starting point for any discussions.

“As president, I am ready to speak with Putin, but only with him. Without any of his intermediaries. And in the context of dialogue, not ultimatums,” he told Italian television RAI 1 in an interview aired in Ukraine on Friday.

Ukraine and Russia have not held face-to-face peace talks since March 29. Russia’s top negotiator, Vladimir Medinsky, was quoted by the Interfax news agency on Monday as saying that peace talks were being held remotely.

Photo montage of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Russian President Vladimir Putin — Photo: Sergey Guneev/Sputnik/Reuters and Mikhail Metzel/Sputnik/AFP

Putin told German Chancellor Olaf Scholz by phone on Friday that progress in negotiations on an end to the conflict was “essentially blocked by Kiev”, the Kremlin said. Kiev blames Moscow for lack of progress.

In his most thorough public comments for weeks on prospects for peace talks, Zelensky said Ukraine would not compromise its territorial integrity.

He dismissed suggestions – which he blamed on Paris – that Ukraine should make concessions to secure a peace deal that would allow Putin a safe exit.

“Get out of this territory you’ve been occupying since February 24th,” he said. “This is the first clear step to talking about anything.”

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