By Guy Faulconbridge
MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia is ready to negotiate with all parties involved in the Ukraine war but Kyiv and its Western backers have refused to engage in talks, President Vladimir Putin said in an interview broadcast on Sunday.
Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine sparked the deadliest conflict in Europe since World War II and the biggest confrontation between Moscow and the West since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.
So far, there is little end to the war in sight.
The Kremlin says it will fight until it achieves all its goals but Kyiv says it will not rest until every Russian soldier is expelled from all its territory, including Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014.
“We are ready to negotiate with all the participants about acceptable solutions, but it is up to them – we are not the ones who refuse to negotiate, they are,” Putin said in an interview with Rossiya 1 state television.
CIA Director William Burns said in an interview published this month that the CIA’s assessment was that Russia was not yet serious about actual negotiations to end the war, although most conflicts ended in negotiations.
Putin, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, said he needed to return to reality and admit Russia did not want any negotiations.
“Russia has single-handedly attacked Ukraine and is killing civilians,” Mykhailo Podolyak said on Twitter. “Russia does not want negotiations, but tries to avoid responsibility.”
‘No other choice’
Putin said Russia was acting in the “right direction” in Ukraine because the West, led by the United States, was trying to isolate Russia. Washington denies it is plotting Russia’s collapse.
“I believe we are acting in the right direction, we are protecting our national interests, the interests of our citizens, our people. And we have no choice but to protect our citizens,” Putin said.
Asked if the geopolitical conflict with the West was approaching a dangerous level, Putin said: “I don’t think it’s very dangerous.”
Putin said the West started the conflict in Ukraine by toppling a pro-Russian president in Maidan revolution protests in 2014.
After that revolution, Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine, and Russian-backed separatist forces began fighting Ukraine’s armed forces in eastern Ukraine.
“Actually, the fundamental thing here is the policy of our geopolitical adversaries, which aims to separate Russia, historical Russia,” Putin said.
Putin has launched what he calls a “special military operation” in Ukraine as Moscow finally stands up to a Western bloc he says has been trying to destroy Russia since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.
Ukraine and the West say there is no justification for what Putin is casting as an imperialist-style war of aggression that has sown suffering and death across Ukraine.
Putin described Russia as a “special country” and said the majority of its people wanted to protect it.
“As for the main part – 99.9% of our citizens, our people who are ready to give everything for the interests of the motherland – there is nothing unusual for me here,” Putin said.
“This once again convinces me that Russia is a unique country and we have extraordinary people. This has been confirmed throughout the history of Russia’s existence.”
(Additional reporting by Pavel Polityuk in Kyiv Editing by Gareth Jones)