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Ukraine War Update: Zelensky spells out conditions for a deal

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President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says that a peace deal with Russia would only be possible if Russian forces pulled back to where they were before they invaded Ukraine.

Volodymyr Zelensky, speaking to a London think group, claimed it was the very minimum his country could endure.

He declared himself to be the leader of “Ukraine, not a mini Ukraine.” He did not, however, address Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014.

Russia is now fighting to reclaim full control of Mariupol.

There are still Ukrainian military and citizens at the large Azovstal steelworks in the city’s south-eastern outskirts, which has been subjected to a ferocious Russian assault.

Taking Mariupol would be Russia’s biggest success in two months of fighting, and it would give Russian President Vladimir Putin something to celebrate on May 9, which is Victory Day in Russia, commemorating the Soviet victory over the Nazis in World War II.

Mr. Zelensky, speaking to the Chatham House think tank in London from Kyiv, said there was no way Russia could hold on to territory it had acquired since invading Ukraine.

“To stop the war between Russia and Ukraine the step should be regaining the situation as of 23 February,” he replied in response to a BBC query, alluding to the day before the conflict began.

“I was elected by the people of Ukraine as president of Ukraine, not as president of a mini Ukraine of some kind. This is a very important point,” he added.

According to the reference to the situation on February 23, Ukraine may not insist on retaking Crimea before reaching an agreement with Russia. Russia grabbed the peninsula eight years ago.

Mr. Zelensky urged for the restart of diplomatic talks between Russia and Ukraine, saying: “Despite the fact that they destroyed all our bridges, I think not all the bridges are yet destroyed, figuratively speaking.”

Russia, for its part, has termed the process as in a “state of stagnation.”

Evacuations in Mariupol continue

In an operation organized by the UN and the Red Cross, another 50 civilians, including 11 children, were evacuated from the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol on Friday. More people are thought to be trapped in the massive factory’s Soviet-era tunnels and bunkers.

Fighting and “provocations,” according to Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk, have hampered the operation. Evacuations would resume on Saturday, she said.

Russia had previously announced a three-day daytime truce at the plant, beginning Thursday.

Meanwhile, Mr. Zelensky said that German Chancellor Olaf Scholz would be visiting Ukraine on May 9. The presence of the German leader in Ukraine on the anniversary of the Soviet sacrifice in World War II would be immensely symbolic.

“He can make this very powerful, wise political step, to come here on 9 May, to Kyiv,” Mr. Zelensky said. “I am not explaining the significance, I think you’re cultured enough to understand why.”

The Ukrainian president has already criticized Germany’s wartime policy.

He accused Germany of impeding efforts to impose an embargo on Russian energy supplies in an April BBC interview, and said European countries who continued to buy Russian oil were “making their money in other people’s blood.”

In the same month, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier’s scheduled visit to Kyiv was canceled at the last minute due to Germany’s commercial links with Russia.

Image Credit: Getty

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