Russian gives Ukraine ultimatum over occupied regions

Sergei Lavrov

MOSCOW — Russia’s foreign minister has said Ukraine must fulfil Moscow’s proposals regarding their “new territories” — or the Russian military would take action, according to Russian state news agency TASS.

A day after President Vladimir Putin said he was open to negotiations over Ukraine, Sergei Lavrov lashed out saying Kyiv and the West sought to destroy his country and Ukraine must meet Moscow’s demands or its army will.

Putin’s offer to talk was dismissed by Ukraine, as his forces continued to batter Ukrainian towns with missiles and rockets, and Moscow kept demanding that Kyiv recognise its conquest of a fifth of the country.

Kyiv said it would fight until Russia withdrew.

“Our proposals … are well known to the enemy,” TASS quoted Lavrov as saying late Monday.

“The point is simple: Fulfil them for your own good. Otherwise, the issue will be decided by the Russian army.”

Putin launched his full-scale invasion on 24 February, claiming the aim was to “denazify” and demilitarise Ukraine, which he said was a threat to Russia.

Kyiv and the West say Putin’s invasion was merely an imperialist land grab. The US and its allies have imposed sweeping sanctions on Russia for its invasion and sent billions of dollars in assistance to the Ukrainian government.

Just last week, when Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was visiting Washington, the US announced another $1.85 billion (€1.69bn) in military assistance for Ukraine, including a transfer of the Patriot Air Defence System, angering Moscow.

“It is no secret to anyone that the strategic goal of the United States and its NATO allies is to defeat Russia on the battlefield as a mechanism for significantly weakening or even destroying our country,” Lavrov further told TASS.

He reiterated that Moscow and Washington could not maintain a normal connection, blaming the administration of US President Joe Biden.

While Moscow had planned a swift operation to take over its neighbour, the war is now in its 11th month, marked by many embarrassing Russian battlefield setbacks.

In the latest attack to expose gaps in Russia’s air defences, a drone believed to be Ukrainian penetrated hundreds of kilometres through Russian airspace on Monday, causing a deadly explosion at the main base for its strategic bombers.

Russian forces have been engaged for months in fierce fighting in the east and south of Ukraine, to defend the lands Moscow proclaimed it annexed in September and which make up the broader Ukrainian industrial Donbas region.

Over the past 24 hours, Ukrainian forces have repelled Russian attacks in the areas of two settlements in the Luhansk region, and six in the Donetsk region, the General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces said on Tuesday.

In his nightly video message on Monday, Zelenskyy called the situation along the frontline in Donbas “difficult and painful”.

Oleh Zhdanov, a military analyst based in Kyiv, said heavy fighting was going on around elevated areas near Kreminna in the Luhansk region.

He also said that fighting has picked up along the Bakhmut and Avdiivka, a line of contact further south in the Donetsk region, after a brief easing in previous days.

“The arc of fire in Donetsk region continues to burn,” Zhdanov said in a social media video post.

Zelenskyy said as a result of attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, nearly nine million people were without power. That figure amounts to about a quarter of Ukraine’s population.

Sergey Kovalenko, head of YASNO, which supplies electricity to Kyiv, said late on Monday that while the power situation has been improving in the city, blackouts will continue.

“While repairs are underway, emergency shutdowns will continue,” Kovalenko said on his Facebook page.

Putin hosted leaders of other former Soviet states in St Petersburg on Monday for a summit of the Commonwealth of Independent States group, which Ukraine has long since quit.

The invasion of Ukraine has been a test of Russia’s longstanding authority among other ex-Soviet states.

In televised remarks, Putin made no direct reference to the war while saying threats to the security and stability of the Eurasian region were increasing.

“Unfortunately, challenges and threats in this area, especially from the outside, are only growing each year,” he said. “We also have to acknowledge … that disagreements also arise between member states of the commonwealth.”

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Source:Agencies