Zelensky warns ‘elimination’ of last Mariupol troops would ‘end peace talks’

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Zelensky agrees to talk with Russia

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned Saturday that the “elimination” of the last Ukrainian soldiers present in the port city of Mariupol besieged by Russian forces “would put an end to any peace negotiations” with Moscow.

“The elimination of our soldiers, of our men (in Mariupol) will put an end to any negotiation” of peace between Russia and Ukraine, declared the president in remarks reproduced by the news website Ukraïnska Pravda, warning that the two sides would then find themselves in “an impasse”.

In terms of human casualties, he said “Mariupol…  could be ten times Borodianka”, a small Ukrainian town near Kyiv destroyed after being shelled and the scene of alleged abuses during its occupation by Russian soldiers.

“And the more Borodiankas there are, the more difficult it will be” to negotiate, he stressed.

On April 11, the Ukrainian army announced that it was preparing for “a final battle” in Mariupol. “It will be death for some of us and captivity for others,” the 36th Marine Brigade wrote on Facebook.

The next day, the Ukrainian authorities said the fighting had killed between 20,000 and 22,000 people in the strategic city, which in peacetime had 440,000 inhabitants.

Both sides have claimed to have inflicted large numbers of casualties upon the other. Although the information is depressingly sad to see it has also become laughable the only truth is that there is one constant coming out of Ukraine, one fact, media sources are full of misinformation.

Moscow claims Kyiv has lost 23,367 combatants combined from the army, national guard and foreign mercenaries. While Western media claims are inconsistent. Zelensky said about 2,500-3,000 Ukrainian troops have been killed so far and up to 20,000 Russian troops.

The casualty figures were revealed by Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov, who said that in the city of Mariupol alone Ukraine has lost more than 4,000 people, including “foreign mercenaries” and “Nazis” associated with the notorious Azov and Aidar regiments.

Konashenkov said that Russia has obtained documents proving Ukraine’s losses, and would soon publish more detailed information from these files.

Ukraine claims to have lost between 2,500 and 3,000 soldiers across its entire territory. This was the figure Zelensky gave to CNN in an interview on Friday, while claiming that the Russian military had suffered as many as 20,000 casualties of its own. Moscow heavily disputes Zelensky’s claims.

Moscow has given no updates on its casualties since March 25, when it said 1,351 had died. Western estimates of Russian losses are many times higher.

In a statement, the general accused Zelensky of hiding the true scale of Ukraine’s losses, saying the president “is afraid to tell the people of Ukraine” how many soldiers have been lost.

Konashenkov said that over the course of the day, Russian forces launched high-precision missile strikes on six Ukrainian military equipment sites and seven troop strongholds, while Russian air assets destroyed 67 troop and equipment sites.

Russian forces shot down a Ukrainian military transport aircraft near Odessa, Konashenkov added, stating that the plane was “delivering a large batch of weapons supplied to Ukraine by Western countries.” Russia had previously declared that such foreign arms shipments would be considered “legitimate targets” by its forces.

Earlier this week, US President Joe Biden authorized an $800 million package of heavy weapons for Ukraine, including artillery pieces and helicopters. According to a CNN report on Friday, the first flight of weapons from this package was due to arrive in Ukraine within a day.

Over the course of Friday night and into Saturday morning, Russia used high-precision strikes to destroy an armoured-vehicle manufacturing plant in Kyiv and a military repair depot in the city of Nikolaev in southern Ukraine, Konashenkov said earlier on Saturday. A total of 16 targets were hit overnight, including Ukrainian military units, weapons and ammunition depots, and radar facilities, he added.

Overall, around a quarter of Ukrainians have been driven from their homes, including a tenth of the population that has fled abroad.

One thing is clear Mariupol is about to fall.

Zelensky gives his vision of a peace deal with Russia

Peace talks between delegations from Russia and Ukraine at Dolmabahce Presidential Office in Istanbul Turkiye on March 29 2022 1
Peace talks between delegations from Russia and Ukraine at Dolmabahce Presidential Office in Istanbul, Turkiye on March 29, 2022. © Getty Images / Cem Ozdel

The treaty could consist of two separate documents, the Ukrainian president said

A peace agreement with Russia might consist of two separate documents that would cover the two key issues – security guarantees for Kyiv and its future relations with Moscow, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Saturday.

Speaking to Ukrainian media, Zelensky explained that Moscow would like to have one comprehensive document that would address all the issues. However, because the security guarantees involve other countries, two documents could be a solution, according to the Ukrainian leader.

A peace treaty with Russia can consist of two different documents. One of them should concern security guarantees for Ukraine, the other to directly address its relations with the Russian Federation,” Zelensky said.

He explained that a document covering security guarantees could be signed by those countries “who are ready for these security guarantees,” while another document could cover future relations between Ukraine and Russia.

Zelensky claimed that the UK, US, Italy and Turkey have shown a willingness to provide security guarantees for Ukraine, but there has been no final answer from any of them. A previous list of potential guarantors also included Germany, France, Poland and Israel.

Moscow would like to have one agreement that addresses all the issues. However, not all see themselves at the same table with Russia. For them, security guarantees for Ukraine are one issue, and agreements with Russia are another,” Zelensky said.

Despite the apparent progress achieved in the negotiations between Moscow and Kyiv in Istanbul in late March, earlier this week Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the peace talks had “returned to a deadlock.” He explained that Ukraine has refused to fulfil one of Russia’s key requests: to recognize Crimea as Russian and the Donbass republics as independent.

Putin’s remarks followed an announcement by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov that Kyiv had submitted new written proposals that deviated from what was offered during the in-person talks. The new proposal, according to Lavrov, fails to mention that the security guarantees Kyiv wants to obtain do not cover Crimea.

Obtaining security guarantees from world powers has been named by Kyiv as a key condition for agreeing to a neutral status and abandoning its ambition to join NATO.

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