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KYIV: Ukraine denied on Tuesday that it was under Western pressure to negotiate with Russia, doubling down on its insistence that talks could be held only if Russia relinquishes all occupied territory.

The remarks came days after a high profile Washington Post report that the United States had encouraged Kyiv to signal willingness for talks. They also coincided with U.S. mid-term elections whose outcome could test Western support for Ukraine.

In an overnight address before he was due to speak to world leaders at a climate summit, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy recited what he called Ukraine’s “completely understandable conditions” for peace talks.

“Once again - restoration of territorial integrity, respect for the U.N. Charter, compensation for all damages caused by the war, punishment of every war criminal and guarantees that this will not happen again.”

Ukraine had repeatedly proposed such talks, but “we always received insane Russian responses with new terrorist attacks, shelling or blackmail”, Zelenskiy said.

On Monday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov repeated Moscow’s position that it is open to talks but that Kyiv was refusing them. Moscow has repeatedly said it will not negotiate over territory it claims to have annexed from Ukraine.

Zelenskiy’s senior adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said it was absurd to suggest that Western countries would push Kyiv to negotiate on Moscow’s terms, as they were the ones supplying Ukraine with the weapons to drive Russian forces off its land.

“We are pushing the Russian army out of territory,” he said in an interview with Radio Liberty. “And against this background, forcing us to the negotiation process, and in fact to recognise the ultimatum of the Russian Federation, is nonsense! And no one will do that.”

He said there was “no coercion” in Kyiv’s relationship with Washington, and suggestions the West was pushing Ukraine to negotiate were part of Russia’s “information programme”, though he did not directly rebut the Washington Post report.

Ukraine’s Zelensky urges ‘unwavering unity’ in US until ‘peace restored’

Since Russia announced the annexation of Ukrainian territory at the end of September, Zelenskiy has decreed that Kyiv would never negotiate with Moscow as long as Vladimir Putin remains Russian president. Podolyak has recently repeated that line, although Zelenskiy did not mention Putin in his speech.

Call to extend grain deal

Separately, Zelenskiy called on Tuesday for an extension to the Black Sea grain export deal that lifted a Russian blockade of three major Ukrainian ports and eased a global food crisis.

The accord, brokered by Turkey and the United Nations in July, expires on Nov. 19 and looked in jeopardy last month when Moscow briefly suspended its participation before rejoining it.

“We maintain the line that the initiative must continue regardless of whether the Russian Federation is willing,” Zelenskiy told Washington’s United Nations ambassador, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, in Kyiv.

Alluding to his country’s status as one of the world’s top grain producers, he added on the Telegram messaging app: “Ukraine is ready to remain the guarantor of world food security.”

Ukraine’s deputy infrastructure minister told Reuters on Tuesday that Kyiv also wanted the grain export deal expanded to include more ports and goods, and hoped a decision to renew the pact for at least a year will be taken next week.


Ukrainian forces have been on the offensive in recent months, while Russia is regrouping to defend areas of Ukraine it still occupies, having called up hundreds of thousands of reservists over the past month.

Russia has been evacuating civilians from occupied areas, especially from southern Ukraine’s Kherson region, in an operation Kyiv says includes forced deportations, a war crime. Moscow says it is taking people to safety.

The next big battle looms over a Russian-controlled pocket of land on the west bank of the Dnipro River, which includes Kherson city, the only regional capital Russia has captured since its invasion in February.

Britain’s Ministry of Defence said on Tuesday Russia was preparing new fortified lines deep inside territory it controls “to forestall any rapid Ukrainian advances in the event of breakthroughs”.

This involved installing concrete barriers known as “dragon’s teeth” to stop tanks, including near Mariupol in the south to help safeguard Russia’s “land bridge” to occupied Crimea even if Moscow loses other territory.

On Monday, a source confirmed that White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan had held talks with Russian officials to avert escalation of the conflict, which was first reported by the Wall Street Journal. The Kremlin has declined to comment.

The White House did not deny the talks but ruled out diplomatic moves about Ukraine without Kyiv’s involvement.

The United States was holding mid-term elections for Congress on Tuesday. Although most candidates from both parties support Ukraine, some right-wing Republican candidates have criticised the cost of U.S. military aid.

White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre said U.S. support for Ukraine would be “unflinching and unwavering” regardless of the vote’s outcome.

Oleksandr Merezhko, the head of Ukraine’s parliamentary foreign policy committee, said a Republican victory “will not in any way impact on support for Ukraine”, maintaining that Kyiv enjoyed bipartisan support in Washington.


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