Highlights

  • Kremlin: Putin open to talks on Ukraine
  • Russia rejects pullout from Ukraine as condition
  • Biden: will talk if Russia leaves Ukraine

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Russia rejects pullout from Ukraine as condition for talks

Peskov also told reporters that Russia's "preferred way to achieve their goals is through peaceful diplomatic means.

Russia said on Friday that Western demands it should pull out completely from Ukraine as part of any future talks to end the war effectively rule out any such negotiations, as Russian strikes continued and a Ukrainian official set his country's battle losses at up to 13,000 troops.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov reiterated that Russian President Vladimir Putin remains open to talks but the Western demand that Moscow first withdraws its troops from Ukraine is unacceptable.

Peskov's comments came as Putin spoke on the phone on Friday morning with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. Scholz's office said he made clear to Putin “that there must be a diplomatic solution as quickly as possible, which includes a withdrawal of Russian troops.” On Thursday, US President Joe Biden also indicated he would be willing to talk with Putin if he demonstrated that he seriously wanted to end the invasion and pull out of Ukraine.

A statement issued by the Kremlin after the phone call with Scholz said Putin again blamed the West for encouraging Ukraine to prolong the war by supplying it with weapons.

Putin also said recent crippling Russian strikes on Ukraine's infrastructure were “forced and inevitable” after Ukraine allegedly bombed a key bridge to the Crimean peninsula — which Russia seized from Ukraine in 2014 — and energy facilities.

Russian forces have been bombarding Ukraine's critical infrastructure since October, leaving millions without electricity amid cold winter weather. Scholz's office said that in the phone conversation with Putin he “condemned in particular the Russian air attacks on civilian infrastructure" in Ukraine and said Germany was committed to continuing to help Ukraine defend itself.

Russian forces kept up rocket attacks on infrastructure and airstrikes against Ukrainian troop positions along the contact line, the Ukrainian general staff said Friday, adding that Moscow's military push has focused on a dozen towns including Bakhmut and Avdiivka — key Russian targets in the embattled east.

A top adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, citing military chiefs, said that since Russia invaded on February 24 10,000 to 13,000 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed in action.

It was a rare comment on Ukraine's military casualties and far below estimates from Western leaders.

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