Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused Kyiv of being “inconsistent” in talks with Moscow over ending the war in Ukraine and played down the prospect of any immediate meeting with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Putin told European Council President Charles Michel on Friday that Ukraine’s government was showing it was not ready to seek mutually acceptable solutions, the Kremlin said.
He added any direct meeting with Zelenskyy depended on progress in continuing discussions between officials from the two sides, which last took place in person in Turkey on March 29, before Moscow launched a new offensive in eastern Ukraine.
Earlier this week, the Kremlin said Russia had submitted a new written proposal to Kyiv. Zelenskyy later denied any knowledge of the alleged correspondence.
Michel and Putin’s early morning phone conversation came after the European Union official visited Zelenskyy in Kyiv on Wednesday in a show of public support by the bloc for Ukraine.
Michel said he had stressed the EU’s “condemnation” of Russia’s invasion during his talks with Putin and laid out the sanctions the bloc is imposing on Moscow in response.
He added that he had called for civilians to be allowed to safely evacuate out of areas where fighting is taking place, such as the besieged southeastern port city of Mariupol.
Citing an unnamed EU official, the Reuters news agency reported that Michel also urged Putin to engage directly with Zelenskyy over ending the conflict.
Call with President Putin @KremlinRussia_E
Strongly urged for immediate humanitarian access and safe passage from #Mariupol and other besieged cities all the more on the occasion of Orthodox Easter.
— Charles Michel (@CharlesMichel) April 22, 2022
During the pair’s talks Putin also accused Kyiv of refusing to allow Ukrainian troops holed up in Mariupol’s sprawling Azovstal steel plant to surrender, the Kremlin said.
“All servicemen of the Ukrainian armed forces, militants of the national battalions and foreign mercenaries who laid down their arms are guaranteed life, decent treatment in accordance with international law, and the provision of quality medical care,” Putin said.
“But the Kyiv regime is not allowing for this opportunity to be used.”
Ukraine has said hundreds of forces and civilians remain holed up inside the Soviet-era steelworks and has repeatedly called for a ceasefire to allow for the evacuation of civilians as well as wounded soldiers from Mariupol, much of which has been reduced to a smoking ruin during Russia’s nearly two-month siege.