Vladimir Putin tells UN chief he still has 'hope' in Ukraine talks

Russian President said talks were derailed by claims of atrocities by his troops in Bucha

Russian President Vladimir Putin and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres at the Kremlin in Moscow on April 26. Sputnik / AFP

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Russian President Vladimir Putin told visiting UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday that he still held hope for negotiations to end the conflict in Ukraine.

"Despite the fact that the military operation is ongoing, we still hope that we will be able to reach agreements on the diplomatic track," Mr Putin told Mr Guterres in Moscow, in televised remarks.

"We are negotiating, we do not reject [talks]."

Sitting across from Mr Guterres at a long table at the Kremlin, he said talks with Ukraine had been derailed by claims of atrocities committed by Russian forces in the town of Bucha, outside Kyiv.

"There was a provocation in the village of Bucha, which the Russian army had nothing to do with," Mr Putin said.

"We know who prepared this provocation, by what means, and what kind of people worked on it."

Ukraine had proposed an international agreement whereby other countries would guarantee its security. In return, Kyiv would not join Nato or host foreign military bases and become a neutral, non-nuclear state.

The talks in Turkey stalled after the discovery of civilian bodies in areas near Kyiv that were earlier occupied by Russian forces.

Mr Putin told Mr Guterres he was "aware of your concerns about Russia's military operation" in Ukraine and ready to discuss it.

But he blamed the turmoil on an "anti-state coup" that overturned pro-Russian Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovychin 2014.

Mr Putin told Mr Guterres the military operation in Ukraine was a “desperate measure” to end the “suffering” of those in the country’s eastern region.

He said Russia had responded to calls for help from the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics, after Moscow recognised their independence.

Mr Guterres repeated his call from an earlier meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov for Moscow and Kyiv to work with the UN to set up aid and evacuation corridors to help civilians in Ukraine.

Mr Guterres's spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, said Mr Putin agreed "in principle" to the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross being involved in moving civilians from the Azovstal steel works in the port city of Mariupol.

Further discussions will take place between the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the Russian Defence Ministry, Mr Dujarric said.

Updated: April 26, 2022, 10:55 PM