Russia says Ukraine must surrender even as Putin’s army retreats
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Ukraine must surrender or face continued war, even as Moscow’s troops have been forced to retreat in a series of damaging defeats.
In an interview with the state-run news service Tass published Tuesday, Lavrov said Ukraine must cede sovereignty over territories annexed by Russia since President Vladimir Putin’s 24 February invasion. He reiterated unfounded claims that Russia’s aim in starting the war was “the de-Nazification and de-militarization” of Ukraine.
The Kremlin’s goals “are well-known to the enemy,” Lavrov said. “Fulfill them for your own good. Otherwise the issue will be decided by the Russian army.”
With the war entering its 11th month, Russian forces are on the back foot after repeated battlefield failures under pressure from a Ukrainian counteroffensive backed with weapons from its US and European allies.
Putin conceded last week that the situation was “extremely difficult” in four partly-occupied regions of east and south Ukraine, where Ukrainian forces have gradually reclaimed territory. In November, Ukraine took back the southern city of Kherson, the only regional capital that Russia had seized during the invasion.
Still, Putin also told a meeting with top military officials last week that Russia has “no limitations” on military spending for the war in Ukraine, as he called on the army to deliver results.
Faced with mounting losses, Kremlin officials in recent months had toned down public demands for Ukraine to capitulate after the failure of Russia’s attempt early in the war to seize the capital Kyiv and overthrow President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s government.
Russia narrowed its war goals to control over the four regions that Putin formally annexed in September, even though his troops didn’t fully occupy them and have since lost more of the territories.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said in an interview with the Associated Press that his country wants to hold a peace summit in February, but he doesn’t anticipate Russia taking part. Kyiv is ready to hold direct talks with Moscow only after Russia faces a war-crimes tribunal, he said.
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