Putin Says Trump ‘Sincerely’ Wants to End The War in Ukraine

(Bloomberg) -- President Vladimir Putin said Russia takes seriously statements by Donald Trump that he has proposals to end the war in Ukraine quickly.

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“I’m not familiar with his possible proposals on how he intends to do this, and that is, of course, the key question,” Putin told a news conference Thursday in Astana, Kazakhstan, where he attended a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. “But I have no doubt that he says this sincerely, and we will support it.”

He spoke a day after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy told Bloomberg TV in an interview that Trump “should tell us today” what his plans for ending the war would be if he wins November’s US presidential election. Zelenskiy warned that any proposal must avoid violating Ukraine’s sovereignty.

Putin told reporters that he saw some of last week’s election debate between Trump and Joe Biden but declined to comment on it. President Biden is facing growing pressure to drop his reelection bid following criticism of his poor performance in the debate.

Trump hasn’t explained how he believes he’ll bring an end to the war that’s now in its third year. Politico reported this week that he’s considering a deal with Russia under which NATO would commit not to expand further east, including to Ukraine and Georgia, citing two national security experts aligned with the former president.

Putin said last month that Ukraine had to pull out of four eastern regions partly occupied by Russian forces as a condition for peace talks. Under his terms, immediately rejected by Kyiv and its US and European allies, Ukraine would also have to rule out ever joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Putin said in Astana that Russia won’t declare a halt to fighting before Ukraine agrees to take “irreversible” steps demanded by Moscow, without specifying what those would be.

“A cease-fire without reaching such agreements is impossible,” he said.

The Russian president also ruled out a resumption of talks with the US on strategic stability until after the election. Russia must first “understand the moods and preferences of the future administration,” Putin said.

Separately, European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said it would be “very difficult to continue arming Ukraine” without US support.

“Will Europeans be able to continue supporting Ukraine militarily even if the US doesn’t?” Borrell said at a meeting in Madrid of the European Council on Foreign Relations. “It’s certainly difficult but not impossible. But is there the political will? I have my doubts.”

--With assistance from Kevin Whitelaw.

(Updates with more detail from the fifth paragraph)

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