Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Monday that it would not be possible to negotiate an end to the war in his country without meeting Kremlin leader Vladimir Putin.
Zelenskiy told European public television networks such a meeting could discuss the future of occupied Ukrainian territory, but more time would be required to resolve the issue.
He also repeated his acknowledgement made earlier this month that Ukraine could not now secure NATO membership.
“I believe that until such time as we have a meeting with the president of the Russian Federation…you cannot truly understand what they are prepared to do in order to stop the war and what they are prepared to do if we are not ready for this or that compromise,” Zelenskiy said in the interview.
Zelenskiy has sought a meeting with Putin for nearly a year, but the Russian leader has refused and instead demanded the Ukrainian president resolve his country’s “civil war” with separatist territories linked to Moscow.
Since Russian troops poured into Ukraine last month, Zelenskiy has issued increasingly urgent calls for talks to end the fighting.
Last week he called for a meeting quickly so that Russia could “limit the losses caused by its mistakes”.
‘COMPROMISE MUST BE FOUND’
Russia’s assault on Ukraine has killed thousands and driven almost a quarter of Ukraine’s 44 million people from their homes. Germany predicted the refugee number could reach as high as 10 million in coming weeks.
“I am ready at a meeting with the president of Russia to raise the issue of occupied territories, but I am certain that a solution will not come at this meeting,” Zelenskiy said in his interview.
He said several conditions would need to be met before such matters could be dealt with, namely, a cease-fire, the withdrawal of troops and security guarantees.
“If people are trying to stop a war, there is a cease-fire and troops are withdrawn. The presidents meet, reach an agreement on withdrawing troops and there are security guarantees of one sort or another,” he said. “Compromises must be found, one way or another of guaranteeing our security.”
Zelenskiy said Ukraine is well aware it cannot be admitted into NATO now. NATO member states, Zelenskiy said, “understand that they do not want to fight with Russia and therefore cannot take us in…we have to reconcile ourselves to that and say ‘ok, other guarantees’.”