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Aborted peace deal could be basis for Ukraine talks, says Kremlin

MOSCOW (Reuters) -An aborted 2022 peace deal between Russia and Ukraine could be the basis for new negotiations but there is no sign that Kyiv is ready for talks, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Friday.

President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly said that Russia and Ukraine were on the verge of agreeing a deal to end hostilities at talks in Istanbul in April 2022, but that Ukraine backed away from it once Russian troops fell back from near Kyiv.

The deal is reported to have included clauses demanding that Ukraine adopt a geopolitically neutral status and not join NATO, limit the size of its armed forces and grant a special status to eastern Ukraine – all things which Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has made clear he opposes.

In remarks on Thursday, Putin again raised the subject of potential peace talks and said he was open to what he called realistic negotiations.

But he is opposed to the two-day high-level conference to be hosted by Switzerland in June at Ukraine’s request that seeks to achieve peace, saying it is pointless if Russia does not take part.

In Putin’s view, the meeting does not take new realities into account, including Moscow’s annexation of new territory in Ukraine.

Zelenskiy, meeting with students in western Ukraine on Friday, appeared to rule out using the 2022 talks as a basis for further discussions, saying the meetings at the time were not talks in a true sense.

The Ukrainian president said “no,” when asked whether the 2022 talks in Belarus and Turkey had the potential to stop the war.

“Negotiations are when two sides want to come to an agreement. There are different aspects, but when there are two sides,” he said in a video posted on his website.

“But when one side in any case, regardless of the country or the city, gives you an ultimatum, that is not negotiations.”

A senior Ukrainian official has acknowledged that the two sides were close to an agreement in Turkey in 2022 but said Kyiv took the proposal no further because it did not trust the Russian side to carry out any agreement.

Peskov, Putin’s spokesman, said a lot had changed since 2022, including what he said was the addition to Russian territory of four new regions, a reference to the parts of Ukraine which Moscow has claimed as its own.

But Peskov said the aborted Istanbul deal could still be the basis for new talks and that Russia was ready for that. When asked if Moscow sensed any readiness from the Ukrainian side for talks however, Peskov said: “No, we don’t sense that.”

Ukraine says it wants all of its territory back, including Crimea, which Moscow annexed in 2014, and for every Russian soldier to leave its territory. It is trying to drive international talks on its stance which exclude Russia.

(Reporting by Reuters; Writing by Maxim Rodionov;Editing by Andrew Osborn, Ron Popeski and Cynthia Osterman)

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