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Russia says the West must recognize its control over land its forces are losing before any Ukraine peace talks

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  • The Kremlin wants the West to recognize Ukrainian lands it illegally annexed for talks to occur.
  • Russia does not fully control these regions and has been losing ground to Ukraine’s forces.
  • Biden said he’d hold talks with Putin if the Russian leader expresses a desire to end the war. 

The Kremlin on Friday said that peace talks with the West could only happen if they recognize Moscow’s authority over Ukrainian territories it illegally annexed, even as Russian forces are being pushed out of these regions by Ukraine’s military. 

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Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters that the US government’s refusal to acknowledge “the new territories” as part of Russia “significantly complicates the search for mutual ground for discussions,” Reuters reported.

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the illegal annexations of four Ukrainian regions in September, though Russian forces did not fully control these territories at the time. And Russia’s military has continued to lose ground in these regions it now claims.

Russian forces retreated from Kherson, the first major city Russia captured after launching the invasion in late February, last month. Kherson is the capital of a region in southern Ukraine known as the Kherson oblast, which is among the four territories that Putin illegally annexed. Ukraine has regained control of more than half of the territory Russia occupied post-invasion.

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has been clear that he would not agree to any peace deal that saw Kyiv cede territory to Russia. Zelenskyy has cited the restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity as a condition for talks with Russia to begin. 

Peskov’s comments on Friday came a day after President Joe Biden said he would be willing to speak with Putin directly, but only under certain conditions. Biden said Putin would need to express a desire to end the war in Ukraine for talks to occur, and that he wouldn’t hold talks without consulting NATO allies. The president also said the only way for the Ukraine war to end is for Putin to recall his forces.

Addressing Biden’s comments, Peskov said, “He said that negotiations are possible only after Putin leaves Ukraine.”

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“But at the same time — it is very important to give this in conjunction — President Putin has been, is and remains open for contacts, for negotiations. Of course, the most preferable way to achieve our interests is through peaceful, diplomatic means,” Peskov added.

The war in Ukraine has gone poorly for Russia, which has been slapped with crippling economic sanctions by the US and its allies. Russia is estimated to have suffered approximately 100,000 casualties since the onset of the invasion.

Moscow has been condemned worldwide over the unprovoked war, and has faced numerous allegations of committing war crimes in Ukraine. Biden on Thursday said “it’s sick” what Putin has unleashed on Ukraine as he railed against Russia for repeatedly striking civilian areas in Ukraine. The president also ripped into his Russian counterpart’s handling of the war. 

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“The idea that Putin is ever going to defeat Ukraine is beyond comprehension,” Biden said. “He’s miscalculated every single thing.”

A leaked Kremlin poll from November showed that 55% of Russians want to see talks to end the war in Ukraine, with only a quarter of Russians supporting a continuation of the conflict. 

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