‘Have They Gone Crazy?’: Putin Talks on Peace Meeting on Ukraine, Sanctions and National Security

On Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin, on the second day of his visit to China, took part in the opening ceremonies of the eighth Russian-Chinese EXPO and the fourth Sino-Russian Forum on Interregional Cooperation in Harbin and held the press conference, summarizing the state visit. In the Ukraine conflict, Russia will proceed from the real conditions on the ground when resolving the issue; it will not be possible to impose anything on Moscow in terms of negotiations, Putin said at a press conference following his visit to China. “We were ready to discuss, then they discarded it, wanting to gain an advantage on the battlefield and achieve a strategic position. Well, now here are our conditions. Have they gone crazy? Why would we? Undoubtedly, we will base our actions on the realities on the ground,” he said. The president pointed to China as a stakeholder that was sincerely trying to put an end to the conflict in Ukraine, adding that and his Chinese counterpart shared about his recent trip to Europe and his position on peace initiatives. “We believe that China is sincere about its efforts to solve this problem. It has suggested different options and has been very flexible about it,” Putin said. In addition, in his conversation with journalists, the Russian leader touched upon the impact of anti-Russian sanctions, the possibility of sending military troops from Western countries to Ukraine and, last but not least, the issue of the legitimacy of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, whose five-year presidential term officially ends on May 20. Presidential elections in Ukraine were to take place on March 31, 2024, and the inauguration of the newly elected head of state would take place in May. However, the elections were canceled due to martial law and general mobilization. Zelensky stated that elections now are “not the right time,” emphasizing that this issue should be put to rest. More statements from Russian President Putin made at the press conference: Russia wants to understand whom it can trust before engaging with partners on the Ukrainian conflict; “We must understand with whom and how we can engage and whom and to what degree we can trust. We are of course analyzing everything that is going on,” Putin told reporters. In the matter of resolving the Ukrainian crisis, Russia will not allow ultimatums to be presented to it; Russia will not discuss formulas about which it knows nothing, but Moscow has never refused negotiations on Ukraine; there is a basis for the negotiation process – the Istanbul agreements of 2022; “We have a framework for negotiating process, which is what we agreed on in Istanbul … The head of the Ukrainian delegation signed up to that long document. He initialed it. We have a document with his signature on it,” the president said. WATCH: Full Putin’s answer to a question about Ukrainian issues in the context of negotiations with Xi Jinping in China Formulas for peace in Ukraine based on wishes and not on the real situation cannot be discussed; “First they tried to deal a strategic defeat but failed. Any attempt to force [Russia’s] hand will have the same result,” the president warned. Russia is “not seen” at the peace conference on Ukraine in Switzerland. “If it is not seen – so be it”; “They do not invite us. Moreover, they say that they do not see us there,” Putin said at a press conference. There are no plans to take Kharkov as of today; the military’s actions in the region are in response to the shelling of Belgorod; “As for Kharkov, there are no such plans as of today,” Putin told a press conference, when asked about Russia’s plans regarding the city. Zelensky’s legitimacy matters to Russia if “fateful” documents have to be signed; “To a certain extent, he was also involved in our contacts with foreign partners through military-technical cooperation, because the military-technical service, the federal service, was under the Ministry of Defense, he actually headed it. Therefore, he will have his work cut out, it is all combined together,” Putin said. First, Russia needs to understand whether French troops will be in Ukraine, and then consider courses of action; “I am not the French president, I do not make decisions … First, you will get an answer to your question: if there will be troops there or not. And then we will consider the possible consequences of this step,” Putin noted. Russia intends to concentrate administrative resources to achieve the results it needs within the scope of conducting the special operation; The Ukraine Peace Forum in Switzerland is an attempt to impose conditions on Moscow; it will fail, as will the attempt to inflict a strategic defeat on Russia. “It is clear what this event is all about: bringing together as many countries as possible to claim that they have everything agreed on and then giving Russia an ultimatum,” Putin said, adding he would not have it.

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