Zelensky Says Russia Must Pull Back Troops to Pre-War Positions Before Talks

The Ukrainian leader wants to speak directly with Putin

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russia must pull back its troops to pre-invasion positions as a precondition for negotiations, a condition that Moscow is unlikely to agree with.

Zelensky told the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland via video link that he was willing to negotiate directly with Russian President Vladimir Putin but said Russia must take a step to show it is ready to “shift from the bloody war to diplomacy.”

“It’s possible if Russia shows at least something. When I say at least something, I mean pulling back troops to where they were before February 24,” Zelensky said. “I believe it would be a correct step for Russia to make.”

Russia and Ukraine were engaged in negotiations earlier in the war, but they have stalled, thanks in part to the billions in weapons being shipped to Ukrainian forces by the US and its NATO allies. Zelensky said Ukraine will continue to fight until “it reclaims all its territories.”

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba attended the World Economic Forum in person and described the situation for Ukrainian troops as “extremely bad.” He called for the West to provide Ukraine with more advanced weapons. “

“Every day of someone sitting in Washington, Berlin, Paris, and other capitals, and considering whether they should or should not do something, costs us lives and territories,” he said.

Russia has been making gains in the eastern Donbas since the earlier peace talks failed. Russia had initially demanded that Ukraine drop its claim to Crimea, which has been under Russian control since 2014, and recognize the independence of the breakaway Donbas republics, but Zelensky has maintained that he won’t cede any territory.

Since Ukraine wouldn’t give in to the Russian demands earlier in the war, it’s unlikely Russia will ever agree to withdraw from the territory it has captured before a deal is reached. France, Germany, and Italy have been calling for a negotiated solution to end the fighting, while the US, Britain, Poland, and the Baltic states want to see Russia suffer a military defeat.

Author: Dave DeCamp

Dave DeCamp is the news editor of Antiwar.com, follow him on Twitter @decampdave.