Putin demands the withdrawal of Ukrainian troops in exchange for peace

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Ahead of the peace summit in Switzerland last weekend, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday that the withdrawal of Ukrainian troops from the areas annexed by his country is a prerequisite for any solution to the ongoing war.

If Ukraine also renounces NATO membership, Russia would be ready to cease fire and immediately enter into negotiations, Putin said during a visit to the Foreign Ministry in Moscow.

His speech was clearly focused on the current G7 summit in Italy and the opening of the event in Ukraine on Saturday at the Swiss mountain hotel resort of Bürgenstock.

The joining of the Ukrainian regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhia and Kherson to Russia is no longer under discussion, Putin said.

Ukraine must withdraw its army from the parts of these regions it still controls, he added.

The Kremlin leader said he was formulating Russia’s minimum demands not to freeze the conflict, but to resolve it once and for all.

At the same time, Putin reiterated the demands he made when he ordered the invasion of the neighboring country in February 2022: the creation of a neutral, non-aligned and nuclear weapons-free Ukraine.

The country must also be disarmed and “denazified,” Putin said, using a term widely interpreted in the West as the installation of a Russian-approved leadership in Kiev.

Russia currently occupies about a fifth of Ukraine’s territory, including the Crimean Peninsula, which it illegally annexed in 2014.

Ukraine has so far stuck to its stated goal of reconquering the occupied territory, including Crimea. President Volodymyr Zelensky also calls for the prosecution of Russian war crimes and Russian reparations for the destruction caused.

The conference in Switzerland was only intended to divert attention from the real causes of the conflict, namely the policies of the West, Putin said.

“The West is ignoring our interests,” he told Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and other top Russian diplomats, twice explaining how he believed the war started, starting with the pro-European Maidan protests in Kiev in 2013.

The Swiss conference on Saturday and Sunday is mainly intended to mobilize international support for Ukraine – including from countries friendly to Russia.
Russian participation in the dialogue process is planned only as a second step.

To date, more than ninety states have confirmed their participation in the event, most of them at the level of heads of state or government. About half come from Europe and the other half from the rest of the world.

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