Ukraine rules out ceding land to Russia

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A top Russian official says Moscow would respond positively should Kyiv be ready to resume peace negotiations, but that Ukraine must accept the "territorial realities" of the situation, the Interfax news agency reports.

Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Andrey Rudenko said Kyiv must provide a clear response to Moscow's proposals that Ukraine accept "non-aligned" and "non-nuclear" status in order to strike a peace deal.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy would also have to recognise Russia's control over Crimea and the status of the breakaway "people's republics" in Donetsk and Luhansk, Interfax reported on Thursday, a day after Kyiv ruled out territorial concessions.

Negotiations on a possible peace deal have been stalled since tentative rounds of talks between the two sides broke down just weeks into the conflict.

"Russia's approach remains the same. A future agreement should fix the neutral, non-aligned and nuclear-free status of Ukraine and recognise the existing territorial realities, including the current status of Crimea, as well as the Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics," Interfax quoted Rudenko as saying.

He also blamed Ukraine for the collapse of talks and said the West had "forbidden Kyiv from negotiating."

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Wednesday ruled out ceding territory to Russia as part of any peace deal and said no peace talks were under way between Moscow and Kyiv.

"The objective of Ukraine in this war ... is to liberate our territories, restore our territorial integrity, and full sovereignty in the east and south of Ukraine," he told a briefing.

A return to negotiations has been hampered by an intensification of shelling on both sides of the frontline and by Russian strikes on cities, despite its insistence it does not target civilians.

On Thursday, a Russian strike on the central city of Vinnytsia killed at least 20 people, including a small child, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said.

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