Russian President Vladimir Putin‘s call for an end to the war in Ukraine has been met with a sharp rebuke from the United States, which said the Russian leader had shown “zero” interest in peace negotiations.
“Our goal is not to spin the flywheel of military conflict but, on the contrary, to end this war,” Putin said on Thursday.
“We will strive for an end to this and the sooner the better, of course,” he said.
“All armed conflicts end one way or another with some kind of negotiations on the diplomatic track,” he added.
“Sooner or later, any parties in a state of conflict sit down and make an agreement. The sooner this realisation comes to those who oppose us, the better. We have never given up on this.”
Putin’s comments came as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visited the White House and later made a stirring speech to the US Congress where he said support for Ukraine was an investment in security and democracy for the entire world.
The US also announced an additional $1.85bn in military assistance for Kyiv to coincide with Zelensky’s first known trip outside of Ukraine since Russia invaded in February.
Washington was swift in response to Putin’s peace comments.
The White House’s national security spokesman John Kirby said Putin has “shown absolutely zero indication that he’s willing to negotiate” to bring an end to the 10-month-old conflict.
“Quite the contrary,” Kirby told reporters during an online briefing. “Everything he (Putin) is doing on the ground and in the air bespeaks a man who wants to continue to visit violence upon the Ukrainian people” and “escalate the war”.
Kirby said US President Joe Biden was open to a dialogue with Putin but only if he “showed a seriousness about negotiations”.
Kirby’s statements were echoed by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
“Fundamentally right now, Russia has shown no interest in meaningful diplomacy, in meaningfully engaging, to bring this war to an end,” Blinken said at a press conference on Thursday, the AFP reported.
The conflict, Blinken reiterated, could be ended if Russia simply withdrew its troops.
“In the absence of that, we have to see some meaningful evidence that Russia is prepared to actually negotiate a just and durable peace,” Blinken said.
“By just – one that doesn’t simply ratify another country seizing by force the territory of another,” he said.
“Durable – in the sense that we want to make sure that it holds and that we’re not simply putting Ukraine in a position where Russia is going to repeat what it did a month, six months, a year later,” he added.
Ukraine and its allies have routinely blasted the Kremlin’s statements on peace as hollow attempts to stall after months of prolonged setbacks on the battlefield.
He described the Patriots as “quite old”, in contrast with Russia’s S-300 system and said the Kremlin would seek a way to outmanoeuvre – and “crack” – the sophisticated surface-to-air missile defence system.
“An antidote will always be found,” Putin said of the Patriot system.
“So those who do it are doing it in vain. It’s just prolonging the conflict, that’s all.”
Thousands of Ukrainian civilians have perished and Ukraine’s population is enduring brutal winter conditions – with many surviving without water, power or heat amid the Kremlin’s relentless bombardment, which has been hitting “critical infrastructure”, including power stations and energy supply hubs in areas surrounding the capital and elsewhere in the country.