Ukrainian foreign minister says Russian president the only one making decisions, hence should meet with Ukrainian leader ‘if he isn’t scared’; Pentagon calls on Kremlin to stop offensive, while Moscow says it would halt war if Ukraine declares neutrality

Ukraine on Monday said Ukraine wanted direct talks between President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and Russia’s Vladimir Putin as peace negotiations between the two sides appear to have stalled, with the war entering its twelfth day.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said it would be more productive to talk to Putin directly because Kyiv knows he is the person calling the shots in Moscow.

אישה ש נמלטה מ אירפין ש בפרברי קייב משבר מלחמה רוסיה אוקראינה
A Ukrainian woman carrying cats tries to flee city of Irpin (Photo: AFP)


“We have long wanted a direct conversation between the president of Ukraine and Vladimir Putin, because we all understand that it is he who makes the final decisions, especially now,” he said in a live television broadcast.

“Our president is not scared of anything, including a direct meeting with Putin,” Kuleba added. “If Putin is also not scared, let him come to the meeting, let them sit down and talk.”

In the meantime, the third attempt to ease the bloodshed took place at Belarus-Ukraine border. A Ukrainian negotiator said that although small progress on agreeing logistics for the evacuation of civilians had been made, things remained largely unchanged.

גבר וילד שנמלטו מאירפין
A man holding a child in the city of Irpin (Photo: AFP)


“As of now, there are no results that significantly improve the situation,” Mykhailo Podolyak said in a video statement, while Russian negotiator Vladimir Medinsky, told journalists the talks were “not easy”.

“We hope that from tomorrow these corridors will finally work,” he said.

A fourth round of talks will take place very soon, Russian negotiator Leonid Slutsky told Russian state television.

Russia had offered Ukrainians escape routes to Russia and Belarus, its close ally, early on Monday after weekend evacuation ceasefire attempts failed. A spokesperson for Zelenskiy said the Russian proposal was “completely immoral”.

תושבים חוצים גשר הרוס בניסיון לצאת מאירפין
Ukrainians trying to flee as ‘humanitarian corridors’ open (Photo: AFP)


Ukrainian officials, in the meantime, said a Russian air strike hit a bread factory in northern Ukraine on Monday, killing at least 13 civilians.

The Pentagon said Russia’s growing reliance on longer-range strikes on Ukrainian targets is increasing the number of civilian casualties and damage to civilian infrastructure.

“More civilians are being killed and wounded … and Mr. Putin still has a choice,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said, urging Putin to halt his invasion of Ukraine.

תושבים חוצים גשר הרוס בניסיון לצאת מאירפין
Ukrainians trying to flee as ‘humanitarian corridors’ open (Photo: AFP)


Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Moscow would halt operations if Ukraine ceased fighting, amended its constitution to declare neutrality, and recognized Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the independence of regions held by Russian-backed separatists.

Russia calls the campaign it launched on Feb. 24 a “special military operation” to disarm Ukraine and remove leaders it describes as neo-Nazis. Ukraine and its Western allies call this a transparent pretext for an invasion to conquer a nation of 44 million people.

As reported by Ynetnews