Russia has rejected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s “peace formula” as a basis for negotiations and believes Kyiv is still not ready for real peace talks, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told state-run RIA news agency.
Lavrov also said Kyiv’s hopes of driving Russia out of eastern Ukraine and Crimea with Western help were “an illusion”, the agency reported on Thursday. The veteran Russian diplomat’s comments represent the latest evidence of the gulf in positions between Moscow and Kyiv, and how far the two governments are from any realistic chance of talks aimed at ending the war, now in its eleventh month.
Hours after Lavrov’s rejection of Zelenskyy’s proposal, Ukrainian officials said the country came under heavy Russian missile attack, with explosions in big cities, including capital Kyiv and Kharkiv.
Zelenskyy has been vigorously pushing a 10-point peace plan that envisages Russia respecting and restoring Ukraine’s territorial integrity and pulling out all its troops.
But Moscow has insisted Kyiv must first accept Russia’s annexation of Luhansk and Donetsk in the east, and Kherson and Zaporizhia in the south. There can be no peace plan “that does not take into account today’s realities regarding Russian territory, with the entry of four regions into Russia”, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
On Thursday, Lavrov said Russia would continue to build up its fighting strength and technological capabilities in Ukraine. He also emphasised that mobilised troops had undergone “serious training” and while many were now on the ground, the majority were not yet at the front.
The Russian foreign minister’s statements appear to contradict President Vladimir Putin’s recent comments suggesting a willingness to return to diplomacy. The United States and Ukraine had dubbed Putin’s statements as insincere.
Ukraine, meanwhile, has sought a peace summit led by the United Nations by February. Over the past two months, Zelenskyy has urged the leaders of the G20 and G7 groupings to support his idea for the summit, which he said would focus on his peace plan “as a whole or some specific points in particular”.
On Monday, Zelenskyy spoke about his peace formula to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose country will head the G20 over the next year. While India’s government has not commented on Zelenskyy’s plan, Modi told the Ukrainian leader that New Delhi would support any initiative aimed at ending the conflict through diplomacy. Zelenskyy later tweeted that he was “counting on” India’s support for his plan.
I had a phone call with @PMOIndia Narendra Modi and wished a successful #G20 presidency. It was on this platform that I announced the peace formula and now I count on India's participation in its implementation. I also thanked for humanitarian aid and support in the UN.
— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) December 26, 2022
Zelenskyy also discussed the plan with US President Joe Biden during his visit to Washington, DC in December. On Wednesday, Zelenskyy told his country’s parliament to remain united and praised Ukrainians for helping the West “find itself again”.
“Our national colours are today an international symbol of courage and indomitability of the whole world,” he said in an annual speech held behind closed doors.