Putin says Ukraine did not make good on preliminary peace deal
MOSCOW/KYIV — Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday (July 20) said Moscow did not see any desire from Ukraine to fulfil the terms of what he described as a preliminary peace deal agreed to in March.
Mr Putin, speaking to reporters in televised comments after a visit to Iran, said Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were offering to mediate between Russia and Ukraine, which Moscow's forces invaded in late February.
There was no immediate response from the Ukrainian government to Mr Putin's remarks in the early hours of Wednesday.
Mr Putin, asked about a possible meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said Kyiv had not stuck to the terms of a preliminary peace deal he said had been "practically achieved" in March.
"The final result of course... depends on the willingness of the contracting parties to implement the agreements that were reached. Today we see the powers in Kyiv have no such desire."
Negotiations took place in March, with both sides making proposals but without a breakthrough. At the time, Mr Zelenskiy said only a concrete result from the talks could be trusted.
Mr Putin met Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran on Tuesday, deepening ties between the two countries who are both under Western sanctions.
During the visit to Iran, Mr Putin also met Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan to discuss a deal that would resume Ukraine's Black Sea grain exports, now blockaded by Russia.
Russia was ready to facilitate Ukrainian grain exports by the Black Sea, but also wanted the remaining curbs on Russian grain exports to be removed, said Mr Putin, who was shown by Rossiya state TV answering questions from media at the end of his visit to Iran.
On Tuesday the Russian leader had said that not all the issues had been resolved yet on grain shipments, "but the fact that there is movement is already good."
It was Mr Putin's first in-person meeting with a Nato leader since Russian troops invaded and was a pointed message to the West about Russian plans to forge closer strategic ties with Iran, China and India to help offset Western sanctions imposed over the invasion.
The trip shows how isolated Russia has become, said White House national security spokesman John Kirby.
Mr Kirby also said the United States (US) was preparing to unveil another weapons package for Ukraine. Citing US intelligence, he accused Russia of laying the groundwork to annex Ukrainian territory.
The Kremlin has said there is no time limit to a conflict it calls a "special military operation" to ensure its own security. Ukraine and the West condemn it as an unprovoked war of aggression against its neighbour.
Russia was trying to "drag" Ukraine into a protracted conflict into the winter, Mr Zelenskiy's chief of staff Andriy Yermak said in a magazine interview published on Tuesday.
"It is very important for us not to enter the winter. After winter, when the Russians will have more time to dig in, it will certainly be more difficult" for any Ukrainian counter-offensive, Mr Yermak said.
More than two weeks have passed since Russia's last major territorial gain — capturing the eastern Ukrainian city of Lysychansk. But in a now familiar pattern, Russian missiles slammed into targets across Ukraine on Tuesday.
Ukraine's air force said in a Facebook post that it had shot down a Russian fighter jet with a missile over Nova Kakhovka, to the east of the city of Kherson, which is occupied by Moscow's forces. Reuters could not immediately verify the Ukrainian account.
As the war drags on, concerns that Russia may halt supplies of natural gas to Europe have risen.
In response, the European Union (EU) is considering a voluntary 15 per cent cut in natural gas use by its member states beginning next month, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday, citing EU diplomats.
Brussels is expected to publish plans on Wednesday for how the 27 EU members can reduce gas use. The exact number for the reduction target was not specified in a draft document of the plan seen by Reuters.
Kremlin-controlled energy giant Gazprom was ready to fulfil its obligations on gas exports, Mr Putin said, and was not to blame for a reduction in gas transit capacity, including shutting down one of the routes via Ukraine to Europe by Kyiv. REUTERS