Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov on Monday brushed aside any possibility of a ceasefire in Ukraine, saying Moscow is open to resuming peace talks with Kyiv but that does not mean the war – which Russia has termed as “military operation”, will be halted. Speaking in an interview with Russian state television, Lavrov added that he saw no reason why talks should not continue with Ukraine.
The Russian foreign minister said that talks with Ukraine are not progressing as rapidly as they want, and accused the West of trying to derail negotiations by raising war crime accusations against Russian soldiers in Ukrainian town of Bucha – which Moscow has categorically denied on all occasions. Notably, at least 20 bodies of people in civilian clothes along with over 100 mass graves were found in Bucha earlier this month, which Ukraine has claimed are war crimes committed by retreating Russian soldiers.
Lavor further stated that Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered suspension of military operation in Ukraine during the first round of talks- held in Belarus, but insisted that Moscow’s stand had changed since.
After getting convinced that the Ukrainian side was not planning to reciprocate, Lavrov said, a decision was made that “during the next round of talks, there would be no pause (in military action) so long as a final agreement is not reached”.
Last week, Lavrov accused Kyiv negotiators of departing from the demands they had put forth at the face-to-face talks in Turkey on March 29. He said Ukraine presented a draft peace deal to Russia that comprised “unacceptable” elements, and added Kyiv is not interested in ending the fighting. Kyiv, however, dismissed the allegations saying it was a tactic to divert attention from the war crimes Russian troops committed.
At the peace talks in Turkey, Moscow promised to drastically scale back its operations from around Ukrainian capital of Kyiv and Chernihiv. Ukrainian negotiator David Arakhamia also said a meeting between Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskyy looks promising.
However, as the Bucha killings were discovered only four days after the talks and with the recent attack at Kramatorsk railway station that killed at least 50 people and injured over 100 others, the negotiations have been halted.
Kremlin has repeatedly turned down any possibility of the two leaders meeting, stressing that Russia’s stand on Crimea and Donbas remain unchanged.
Meanwhile, British intelligence said on Monday that Ukrainian troops have pushed back many Russian assaults in the country’s east. Zelenskyy, on the other hand, said that tens of thousands of Russian troops were gearing up for a new offensive.
(With inputs from Reuters)