Putin ‘ready for talks’ as Russian missiles rain down on Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin has claimed that Moscow is ready for talks to end the 10-month war in Ukraine, as he slammed Western countries for trying to “tear apart the historical Russia”.

Putin’s comments, aired on Sunday, came amid continued Russian bombardment of Ukrainian towns, including in the Kharkiv and Zaporizhia regions and were immediately dismissed by a senior official in Kyiv. The United States has also previously described Putin’s stance as insincere because of the ongoing assaults.

In the interview aired on Moscow’s Rossiya 1 television, Putin said, “we are ready to negotiate with everyone involved about acceptable solutions”. But “that is up to them — we are not the ones refusing to negotiate, they are,” he said.

An adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, however, said Putin needed to return to reality and acknowledge it was Russia that did not want talks.

“Russia single-handedly attacked Ukraine and is killing citizens,” the adviser, Mykhailo Podolyak, tweeted. “Russia doesn’t want negotiations, but tries to avoid responsibility.”

Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine on February 24, with the stated aim of toppling the so-called “neo-nazi regime” in Ukraine, triggering the deadliest European conflict since World War Two and the biggest confrontation between Moscow and the West since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

The Russian leader said the West had begun the conflict in 2014 by toppling a pro-Moscow Ukrainian president in the Maidan Revolution protests. Soon after, Russia annexed Crimea, and Russian-backed separatist forces began fighting in eastern Ukraine.

“Actually, the fundamental thing here is the policy of our geopolitical opponents which is aimed at tearing apart Russia, historical Russia,” Putin said, referring to a concept that argues that Ukrainians and Russians are one people.

“They [the West] have always tried to ‘divide and conquer’ … Our goal is something else — to unite the Russian people,” he said.

“We are acting in the right direction, we are protecting our national interests, the interests of our citizens, of our people,” he added.