Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said that the likelihood of further peace talks with Russia in Turkey depended on Kremlin leader Vladimir Putin, but that Kyiv wanted substantive talks to happen in an effort to “put an end to the war”.
“I think that whoever started this war will be able to end it,” he told a news conference at a metro station in the heart of the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, on Saturday.
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He was “not afraid to meet” Putin if it would lead to a peace deal between Russia and Ukraine, he added.
“From the beginning, I have insisted on talks with the Russian president,” Zelenskyy said.
“It’s not that I want [to meet him], it’s that I have to meet him so as to settle this conflict by diplomatic means.
“We have confidence in our partners, but we have no confidence in Russia,” he added.
US officials to visit Kyiv
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin will visit Kyiv on Sunday, the day the Russian invasion of Ukraine enters its third month, Zelenskyy said.
It will be the first official visit by US government officials since the February 24 invasion.
Zelenskyy said Ukraine hoped to secure heavy weapons at talks with the US secretaries of state and defense, supplies that he said were vital for Ukraine to eventually retake Russian-occupied territory.
At one point during an emotional news conference, he said that he thought Russia could use a nuclear weapon, but that he did not want to believe that Moscow would.
He said that it was absolutely vital for Ukraine to obtain more weapons.
“As soon as we have [more weapons], as soon as there are enough of them, believe me, we will immediately retake this or that territory, which is temporarily occupied,” he told reporters.
Seeking deal for Mariupol soldiers
Zelenskyy, meanwhile, warned that Ukraine would halt negotiations if Russian troops killed the remaining Ukrainian soldiers in the besieged Black Sea port of Mariupol or staged referendums to create more breakaway republics on newly occupied Ukrainian soil.
“If our men are killed in Mariupol and if these pseudo-referendums are organised in the [southern] region of Kherson, then Ukraine will withdraw from any negotiation process,” he said.
He added that he was ready to exchange Ukraine’s soldiers defending the city “in whatever format” to save “these people who find themselves in a horrible situation, surrounded”.
Earlier on Saturday, Ukrainian officials accused Moscow of torpedoing attempts to evacuate civilians from Mariupol. Zelenskyy also said that Ukraine’s army was not ready to try to break through Russia’s siege of Mariupol by force, but that Kyiv had every right to try and do so.
Zelenskyy called it “one of the hardest days” since the start of the Russian siege of the city at the beginning of March.
The Ukrainian president also said eight people, including a three-month-old child, had been killed in Russian missile attacks in the southern port city of Odesa on Saturday and 18 wounded.
The Odesa and Mariupol deaths all but buried hopes of a truce for Orthodox Easter.