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Putin offers peace talks if Kyiv's forces withdraw from annexed regions of Ukraine

President Vladimir Putin told a meeting of Foreign Ministry top brass Friday that Russia's price for entering peace talks with Ukraine was the complete withdrawal of Ukrainian troops from the Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions and the ditching any idea of joining NATO. Photo by Valeriy Sharifulin/EPA-EFE/Sputnik/Kremlin/Pool
President Vladimir Putin told a meeting of Foreign Ministry top brass Friday that Russia's price for entering peace talks with Ukraine was the complete withdrawal of Ukrainian troops from the Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions and the ditching any idea of joining NATO. Photo by Valeriy Sharifulin/EPA-EFE/Sputnik/Kremlin/Pool

June 14 (UPI) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday his price for entering peace talks with Ukraine was the complete withdrawal of Ukrainian troops from the Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions and the ditching any idea of joining NATO.

Putin pledged the "unhindered and safe withdrawal" of Ukrainian forces, pending Kyiv's acceptance of the proposal under which its troops would be required to vacate the "entire territory of these regions within their administrative borders that existed at the time of their entry into Ukraine," the state-run Tass news agency reported.

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"As soon as Kyiv declares that it is ready for such a decision and begins a real withdrawal of troops from these regions, and also officially notifies of the abandonment of plans to join NATO, our side will immediately, at that very moment, an order to cease fire and begin negotiations," he told a meeting a meeting of Russian Foreign Ministry chiefs.

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Russia annexed the four provinces in breach of international law in fall 2022, seven months after launching its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, but the dogged resistance put up by Ukrainian armed forces has prevented it from establishing full control of them.

The proposal is likely a non-starter given Kyiv has been unwavering in its insistence there can be no peace until Ukrainian sovereignty is restored in full and its borders are restored to where they were in 2014, prior to Moscow's annexation of Crimea.

Putin's offer came as delegations from the G20 and more than 70 other countries, the U.N., OSCE and Council of Europe as well as the Vatican were headed to the southern shore of Lake Lucerne in Switzerland for a Ukraine peace summit Saturday through Sunday.

The Swiss foreign affairs ministry, which is hosting the gathering at the request of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, said in a news release that the summit was a platform for dialogue on developing a framework toward a "comprehensive, just and lasting peace based on international law."

"The overarching objective of the summit is to inspire a future peace process," the ministry said in comments seen as managing expectations for a conference marked by the absence of both Russia and China.

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"The summit will build on the discussions that have taken place in recent months, notably the Ukrainian peace formula and other peace proposals based on the U.N. Charter and key principles of international law."

The Swiss said Russia had not been invited because it had repeatedly indicated it had no interest in participating while China's position was that while it "attaches great importance" to the peace summit it felt Russia was integral to the process and that it would have liked to see countries from the Global South included.

Instead, the aim is to promote common agreement on a potential structure to achieve the goal; and then figure out what a consensus roadmap on how to bring both sides to the table might look like.

In a Thursday night post on X, Zelensky said: "The day after tomorrow, we will take the first step toward a just peace," adding that he had discussed final preparations, details of the final communique and how to bring countries in the Global South on board in a call with Swiss President Viola Amherd.

However, Switzerland's clout on the international stage from its 120-year tradition of neutrality and track record of persuading warring parties to talk failed to convince everyone with as many as 80 of the 160 countries invited not attending.

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