Moscow: In an interview with American TV host Tucker Carlson, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he was ready to negotiate with Ukraine to end the nearly two-year-long war and urged Washington to recognise Moscow’s interests and persuade Kyiv to sit down for talks. Putin also claimed that Ukraine had made a significant mistake by rejecting his calls for negotiations for a truce.
The interview was released on Thursday, where Putin reiterated that his invasion of Ukraine, which Kyiv and its allies described as an unprovoked act of aggression, was necessary to protect Russian speakers in Ukraine and prevent the country from posing a threat to Russia by joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). He said it was up to the US to stop supplying Ukraine with weapons and convince Kyiv to sit down for negotiations.
“We have never refused negotiations. You should tell the current Ukrainian leadership to stop and come to a negotiating table,” said Putin. “We prepared a huge document in Istanbul that was initiated by the head of the Ukrainian delegation. He (Ukraine President) affixed his signature to some of the provisions, not to all of it. He put his signature and then he himself said we were ready to sign it and the war would have been over long ago. However, (UK) Prime Minister Johnson came, talked us out of it. And we missed that chance,” he added.
“Well, you missed it. You made a mistake. Let them get back to that. That is all. Why do we have to bother ourselves and correct somebody else’s mistakes? I know one can say it is our mistake. It was us who intensified the situation and decided to put an end to the war that started in 2014 in Donbass. As I have already said, by means of weapons,” Putin told Carlson.
Ukrainian forces have, in recent weeks, been on the defensive after Russia launched fierce assaults along the front lines. Kyiv did receive a boost to its war effort last week when the European Union approved a $54 billion aid package that will help avert a near-term Ukrainian financial crisis. The interview comes at a critical time as the US, the chief backer of Ukraine in the war, faced stiff challenges to pass a $60 million military aid to Kyiv which was crucial to the latter’s war efforts.
Putin hints at prisoner exchange of US journalist
The Russian President also said he stands ready to negotiate a potential prisoner exchange that would free Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who was detained last March on espionage charges, while Moscow seeks the release of its agent imprisoned in Germany. He was referring to a Russian serving a life sentence in Germany after being convicted of the 2019 brazen daylight killing of Zelimkhan “Tornike” Khangoshvili, a 40-year-old Georgian citizen of Chechen ethnicity.
German judges who convicted Krasikov said he had acted on the orders of Russian federal authorities, who provided him with a false identity, a fake passport and the resources to carry out the hit. Russia has denied these claims.
“He (Gershkovich) was caught red-handed when he was secretly getting classified information,” Putin said of Gershkovich, adding that he doesn’t exclude that the reporter could return home. “We are ready to solve it but there are certain conditions that are being discussed between special services. I believe an agreement can be reached.”
Putin also warned that the West will never succeed in inflicting a “strategic defeat” on Russia in Ukraine and rejected allegations that Russia was harboring plans to attack Poland or other NATO countries. “Only in one case, if Poland attacks Russia. Why? Because we have no interest in Poland, Latvia or anywhere else. Why would we do that? We simply don’t have any interest,” he said.
It was Putin’s first interview with a Western media figure since his full-scale invasion of Ukraine two years ago. Putin has heavily limited his contact with international media since he launched the war in Ukraine in February 2022. Russian authorities have cracked down on independent media, forcing some Russian outlets to close, blocking others and ordering a number of foreign reporters to leave the country.
US Senate advances bill for Ukraine, Israel
Meanwhile, a $95.34 billion bill that includes aid for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan was advanced in the US Senate on Thursday after Republicans blocked compromise legislation that included a long-sought overhaul of immigration policy. Senators backed a procedural motion by 67-32, as some Republicans voted in favour, exceeding the 60-vote threshold to advance the bill.
“This is a good first step. This bill is essential for our national security, for the security of our friends in Ukraine, in Israel, for humanitarian aid for innocent civilians in Gaza, and for Taiwan,” Senate leader Chuck Schumer said after the vote. There was no immediate word on when the 100-member chamber would consider final passage, as some senators said they expected to remain in session during the weekend if necessary.
The security aid bill includes $61 billion for Ukraine as it battles a Russian invasion, $14 billion for Israel in its war against Hamas and $4.83 billion to support partners in the Indo-Pacific, including Taiwan, and deter aggression by China. It also would provide $9.15 billion in humanitarian assistance to civilians in Gaza and the West Bank, Ukraine and other populations in conflict zones around the globe.
Even if the aid bill eventually passes the Senate, it faces uncertainty in the House of Representatives. Dozens of Republican House members, particularly those most closely allied with former President Donald Trump, have voted against Ukraine aid, including Speaker Mike Johnson.
(with inputs from Reuters)
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