Volodymyr Zelenskyy calls for direct negotiations with Vladimir Putin

Ukrainian leader calls for talks with Russian counterpart to hasten diplomatic solution

Volodymyr Zelenskyy wants to negotiate directly with Vladimir Putin to bring the Russia-Ukraine war to an end. AP
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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Sunday that he is ready for direct negotiations with Russian President Vladimir Putin to end the war.

“I’m ready for negotiations with him,” Mr Zelenskyy told CNN. “I was ready for the last two years. And I think that without negotiations, we cannot end this war.”

On Friday, his adviser Mykhailo Podolyak told Bloomberg that peace talks with Russia may last several weeks. Still, he noted that Russia’s position in the discussions had become more “adequate” lately.

“All the people who think that this dialogue is shallow and that it is not going to resolve anything, they just don’t understand that this is very valuable,” said Mr Zelenskyy. “If there is just a 1 per cent chance for us to stop this war, I think we need to take this chance.”

He said the talks were needed to try to preserve Ukrainian lives as Russia continues to attack civilian centres.

Ukrainian authorities in Mariupol said on Sunday that Russia had bombed an art school in which about 400 people had sheltered.

“We are able to deal a powerful blow; we are able to strike back,” said Mr Zelenskyy. “But unfortunately our dignity is not going to preserve lives.”

“We have to use any format, any chance, in order to have the possibility of negotiating, the possibility of talking to Putin. But if these attempts fail, that would mean this is a Third World War.”

On Sunday, the US ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, told CNN that “the negotiations seem to be one-sided”, although Washington remained “hopeful that the Ukrainian effort will end this brutal war”.

“We tried quite a bit before Russia decided to move forward on this brutal attack on Ukraine and those diplomatic efforts were not responded to well by the Russians,” she said. “And they’re not responding now.”

Mr Zelenskyy addressed the US Congress last week to ask for a no-fly zone as well as more military support and additional Russia sanctions.

The Joe Biden administration has ruled out a no-fly zone and rebuffed a Polish proposal to enable the transfer of fighter jets to Ukraine. But the US did release another $800 million in Ukrainian military aid last week.

Updated: March 20, 2022, 6:22 PM