Andrei Fedorov, former deputy Russian foreign minister, has told Al Jazeera the next few days are key in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as President Vladimir Putin’s initial order was to “complete the military operation with a victory by March 2”.
Fedorov said on Sunday he was hopeful of announced talks between the two countries as Moscow continues its full-scale assault on its neighbour.
“There should be talks going on without preconditions. I know the position of my friends in Kyiv and the leadership of Ukraine. They’re ready to sit and to talk, but without precondition,” he said.
Ukraine and Russia have agreed to hold talks at a venue near the Belarusian border, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said earlier in the day.
The talks, the first announced since Russia unleashed a full-scale invasion of Ukraine last week, would be held without preconditions and are the result of a phone call between Zelenskyy and his Belarusian counterpart, the Ukrainian leader said.
Fedorov also said the resistance in Ukraine and sanctions put in place by the West have been stronger than what Russia predicted before the violence started.
“As I said once … please, because I know Ukraine, no one will meet Russian troops with flowers. This is a reality,” he told Al Jazeera.
On the sanctions, the former deputy minister said: “They always think that, OK … we are a big country, we are a great country. We are supplying you with gas and oil. You will never use sanctions … such sanctions again. This is reality for today and it’s caused a lot of problems over here now.”
Ukraine’s Western allies have slapped unprecedented sanctions in response to Russia’s land, sea and air invasion.
“For the first time ever, the European Union will finance the purchase and delivery of weapons and other equipment to a country that is under attack,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Sunday.
She said the EU would close its airspace to Russian aircraft, including the private jets of Russian oligarchs.
The bloc will ban Russian state-owned television network Russia Today and news agency Sputnik. Von der Leyen said this was to render them unable to “spread their lies to justify Putin’s war and to sow division in our Union”.