Zelensky tells Moscow it’s time to negotiate peace

Ukrainian service members stand beside a damaged building in a residential area after shelling in Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 18. Photo by Vladyslav Musiienko/UPI

March 19 (UPI) — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told Moscow in a Saturday video message that it’s time to negotiate peace.

Zelensky called for the negotiations on peace “without delay,” warning that otherwise Russian losses would be “huge,” in the video message posted to his Facebook page.

“Meaningful negotiations on peace, on security for us, for Ukraine — meaningful, fair and without delay — are the only chance for Russia to reduce the damage from its own mistakes.

“We have always insisted on negotiations,” he continued. “We have always offered dialogue, offered solutions for peace …. And I want everyone to hear me now, especially in Moscow. It’s time to meet. Time to talk. It is time to restore territorial integrity and justice for Ukraine.

“Otherwise, Russia’s losses will be so huge, that several generations won’t be enough to rebound,” Zelensky added.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Photo by Ukrainian Presidential Press Office

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has long falsely accused Ukraine of harboring neo-Nazi ideologies, made reference to those accusations when he laid out conditions for peace talks on a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday.

Erdogan offered to bring Putin and Zelensky to Turkey for peace talks, Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin told Turkish newspaper Hurriyet on Saturday, according to CNN.

Kalin said Zelensky was ready for the meeting, but Putin laid out some conditions.

“The first is Ukraine’s neutrality, that is, its renounce from NATO membership,” Kalin told Hurriyet. “Second, disarmament and mutual security guarantees in the context of the Austrian model. Third, the process that the Russian side refers to as ‘de-Nazification.’ Fourth, removing obstacles to the widespread use of Russian language in Ukraine. It is understood that some progress has been made in the first four articles of the ongoing negotiations. It is too early to say that there is full agreement or that an agreement is about to be signed.”

Kalin added that Putin also demanded two final conditions, which were “the most difficult issues.” These conditions included the recognition of the annexation of Crimea and the two “so-called” republics in Donbas.

Putin has also reinforced his control over Russian domestic media, the British Defense Ministry said in its latest intelligence update.

“The Kremlin is attempting to control the narrative, detract from operational problems and obscure high Russian casualty numbers from the Russian people,” the update added.

Zelensky said in the video message that there were about 200,000 people — approximately 100,000 on the streets and 95,000 people in the stadium — at Friday’s celebration in Moscow of Russia’s annexation of Crimea eight years ago. He noted that the 200,000 number is the same as the number of Russian troops involved in the war against Ukraine that began Feb. 24.

He added that 14,000 Russian troops have died in the war, and he used the stadium as a setting to paint a mental picture of the Russian casualties.

“Just imagine 14,000 corpses and tens of thousands of wounded and maimed people at that stadium in Moscow,” Zelensky said. “There are already so many Russian losses as a result of this invasion. This is the price of war in a little more than three weeks. This war must end.”

Zelensky also said in the video message that in Kyiv, the Sumy region and Chernihiv the army has stopped the occupiers.

“The initial plan of the Russian military to seize our state failed. And its seems that they do not know what else can be done to us. It seems their military commanders are not able to offer their political leadership anything, but cruel and erroneous tactics to exhaust us, to exhaust Ukraine. Nothing but constant strikes at the civilian population, peaceful cities, people, children, missiles, air bombs, shelling … Nothing but the destruction non-military infrastructure, residential buildings, hospitals, schools churches.”

But this Russian military tactic has backfired by leading to more sanctions against them, and encouraging more people to join the antiwar coalition, he added.

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss told the Independent she was “very skeptical” about the Kremlin’s approach as Zelensky calls for peace talks and fears that Russia could use the peace talks as a period to prepare for more brutal attacks.

Zelensky also said in the video message that in Mariupol, more than 9,000 people have evacuated and 130 people have been rescued from the bomb shelter under the city’s theater where hundreds had been seeking shelter.

He also announced that in general, more than 180,000 Ukrainians have been rescued by humanitarian corridors.

There are seven humanitarian corridors in Ukraine, six in the Sumy region and one in the Donetsk region, he said, but Russian occupiers continue to block humanitarian resources, which he called a “war crime.”

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