Ukraine has accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of being insincere about pursuing peace talks as Russia continues its bombardment of key Ukrainian cities.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in an address to the Spanish Parliament on Tuesday that Russia “is not serious about peace.”
The Ukrainian leader pleaded for Europe to do more to stop Moscow’s offensive.
“We, Ukrainians, are committed to peace and a conflict-free environment,” Zelenskyy said.
He added that Ukraine has repeatedly called on Russia to agree to a ceasefire and resolve differences through talks.
On Wednesday, however, the bombing has continued, he said.
“Ukraine speaks about it every day,” Zelenskyy added.
“Every day throughout the days of this invasion.
“But the war continues.
“Russia is not serious about peace,” he said.
Ukraine has called for talks between Zelenskyy and Russian President Vladimir Putin on a peace deal but Russia’s chief negotiator, Vladimir Medinsky, has said that it’s too early for that.
A draft of a treaty between Russia and Ukraine is not yet ready “to be presented at the top-level meeting,” Medinsky said in an April 3 message on Telegram.
“The Ukrainian side became more realistic in approaching the issues related to Ukraine’s neutral and non-nuclear status but the draft of the agreement is not ready to be presented at the top-level meeting,” he wrote.
Medinsky said that Russia continues to insist Ukraine acknowledge Crimea as Russian and recognize the separatist-controlled regions in Donbass as independent.
He added that talks between the two sides would continue in an online format.
Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, and that same year the conflicts in Donbass between the Ukrainian military and Russia-backed separatists escalated into a war.
The status of Crimea and the Donbass have been a key sticking point in the negotiations, with Ukraine offering to leave the issue of Crimea temporarily unsettled with a commitment to find a compromise on its status within 15 years.
Zelenskyy has insisted, however, that Ukraine would not cede any territory and that postponing a settlement on Crimea was already a concession on the part of Ukraine’s negotiating team.
“There can be no discussion that we will allow someone to call Crimea someone’s territory,” Zelenskyy said.
“This is our territory, Ukrainian territory.
“Postponing this issue is a compromise.”
“And Donbass for me is Ukraine,” he continued.
“Preserving the status of these territories as Ukrainian is very important for us.”
Besides arguing that Russia wasn’t serious about the peace talks, Zelenskyy called for additional tough sanctions against Moscow in the face of what he said were atrocities committed by Russian forces in Ukraine.
“Really powerful sanctions are needed. The most powerful,” Zelenskyy said.
“How can we allow Russian banks to generate profits while the Russian military tortures ordinary civilians to death in Ukrainian cities?
“How can European companies trade in a state that is deliberately destroying our people?” he added.
Ukraine has accused Russia of committing war crimes in Bucha, a town near Kyiv after grisly images emerged over the weekend of mass graves and bodies of slain individuals, some with hands bound and others bearing marks of apparent torture.
Russia has denied it committed any war crimes, claiming that allegations of atrocities in Bucha were a “monstrous forgery” meant to denigrate the Russian army.
Meanwhile, Russian artillery pounded the Ukrainian cities of Mariupol and Kharkiv on Wednesday.
The besieged southern port of Mariupol has been under almost constant bombardment since the early days of the invasion, with tens of thousands of residents trapped without food, water, or power.
“The humanitarian situation in the city is worsening,” British military intelligence said in an update on Wednesday.
“Most of the 160,000 remaining residents have no light, communication, medicine, heat, or water.
“Russian forces have prevented humanitarian access, likely to pressure defenders to surrender.”