Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Monday that Moscow does not plan to pause its military operations during any future rounds of peace talks with Kyiv.
Lavrov said that during talks in late February, Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered a pause in Russia’s assault. But Moscow has since abandoned the policy.
“After we became convinced that the Ukrainians were not planning to reciprocate, a decision was made that during the next rounds of talks, there would be no pause so long as a final agreement is not reached,” Lavrov said, according to Reuters.
Since Russia invaded on February 24, the warring sides have held several rounds of in-person talks and meetings via video link. The latest in-person negotiations took place on March 29 in Turkey, where Ukraine offered a draft peace deal to Russia.
Under the draft deal, Ukraine said it would give up its plans to join NATO, but Kyiv wants security guarantees from some of the military alliance’s members, including the US. Last week, Lavrov said the draft offer put forward by Ukraine was “unacceptable.”
As the peace talks are stalled, Russia is focusing its assault on Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region. Ukraine’s Defense Ministry warned on Monday that Russia has nearly completed its military buildup in the Donbas and is preparing for a renewed assault in Donetsk and Luhansk.
Denis Pushilin, the head of the breakaway Donetsk People’s Republic, said Monday that the separatist forces will intensify their fight against Ukraine. “Now the operation will be intensified,” Pushilin said. “The more we delay, the more the civilian population simply suffers, being held hostage by the situation. We have identified areas where certain steps need to be accelerated.”
Putin recognized the Donestk and Luhansk Republics shortly before he attacked Ukraine, and framed the invasion as a special military operation to protect people in the Donbas. On March 25, Russia’s Defense Ministry announced the “first stage” of the invasion was over and said it was switching focus to “liberating” Donbas. Since then, Russia’s forces have completely withdrawn from areas in the north near Kyiv and Chernihiv.