'Ukraine to withdraw from talks with Russia if Mariupol forces killed'
Kiev, April 24 (IANS) Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky revealed the kind of events might force his country to withdraw from peace negotiations with Russia.
During a press conference held at one of Kiev's metro stations amid the ongoing Russian war in Ukraine, Zelensky was asked how Kiev would respond to potential independence referendums in the territories controlled by Russian forces, RT reported.
The President admitted that it would force him to stop any talks with Moscow.
"If our people are destroyed in Mariupol, if a referendum, a pseudo-referendum, is announced in any new pseudo-republics of Ukraine, Ukraine will withdraw from any negotiations process," Zelensky said.
Two days ago, Moscow announced the capture of Mariupol.
However, President Vladimir Putin called off the assault on the Azovstal factory, which remains the last holdout of Ukrainian forces, including the fighters of the neo-Nazi Azov regiment, in the strategic port city.
Russian troops should "seal the area so that a fly cannot get through", Putin instead ordered.
Zelensky, meanwhile, admitted that at the moment Ukraine is not able to recapture Mariupol militarily and that the holed-up fighters there are aware of that.
He reiterated his wish to conduct direct talks with Vladimir Putin, as "the war can be stopped by the person who started it".
The President explained that, as he thinks, direct negotiations could be a more effective way to reach peace than speaking via mediators, RT reported.
"I want to stop the war and end it. There is a diplomatic path and a military one. Any healthy person chooses the diplomatic path because he knows that even if it is difficult, it can prevent the loss of millions of people," Zelensky said.
Putin, meanwhile, has not ruled out a personal meeting with Zelensky, but stressed that it would depend on the progress of talks between the negotiating teams.