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Zelenskyy calls for ‘substantial’ peace talks – but Truss warns Russia could use them as ‘smokescreen’ for war crimes

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has called for meaningful peace talks with Moscow – but UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has warned Russia could use them as a “smokescreen” for war crimes.

In a video address, Mr Zelenskyy said this was Russia’s only chance to limit the damage from its mistakes in the wake of the invasion.

He said Ukraine has always offered solutions to resolve the conflict and urged Moscow to engage in negotiations on peace and security that are “fair, substantial and without delays”.

US accuses Russia of preparing false flag attack – Ukraine war latest

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Mariupol reduced to a burned shell

Key developments:
• Biden tells China’s Xi of ‘consequences’ if Beijing gives Russia material support for invasion
• Former PM David Cameron driving van to Poland with nappies and first aid kits for Ukrainian refugees
• Russian attempts to take Kyiv stall, says Ukrainian military
• Putin hails ‘special operation’ in Ukraine at massive celebration party

‘The time has come’

“I want everyone to hear me now, especially in Moscow,” he said.

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“The time has come for a meeting, it is time to talk.

“The time has come to restore territorial integrity and justice for Ukraine.

“Otherwise, Russia’s losses will be such that it will take you several generations to recover.”

Peace talks between the two sides have failed to yield a breakthrough in the past few weeks.

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Rescue from collapsed building in Kharkiv

Russia using peace talks as ‘smokescreen’

But UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss told The Times that she is concerned Russia is using the pretence of negotiations to cover up an attempt to regroup troops for a fresh offensive.

“The Russians have lied and lied and lied,” she said.

“I fear the negotiation is yet another attempt to create a diversion and create a smokescreen from the appalling [atrocities]… I mean, if a country is serious about negotiations, it doesn’t indiscriminately bomb civilians that day.”

She said Ukraine is “fully entitled to undertake any negotiation process it sees fit” – but said she is “very sceptical” about the talks.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson offered his support yesterday for Ukraine’s position in negotiations during a call with President Zelenskyy.

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A call for help under rubble

He also said he was “more convinced than ever” Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military venture would fail, as he said he had pledged to send more defensive weapons to Ukraine.

In an interview with Sky’s FYI programme, he also said Mr Putin sees himself as heir to the brutal Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, adding that his threat of using nuclear weapons is a “complete distraction” and part of a plot to “get away with it”.

Putin fighting ‘war of attrition’

Britain’s chief of defence intelligence said Mr Putin had wrongly assumed that the conflict would be over quickly and was now fighting a “war of attrition”.

Lieutenant General Sir Jim Hockenhull said the Kremlin still has not achieved any of its initial objectives, adding: “It has been surprised by the scale and ferocity of Ukrainian resistance and has been bedevilled by problems of its own making.”

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‘Putin’s trying to kill us’

He said Russia has been forced to switch strategies, turning to the “reckless and indiscriminate” use of firepower which will result in more civilian casualties.

Western officials have warned that the Russians have “enormous” supplies of artillery ammunition which would allow them to continue bombarding Ukrainian cities for weeks.

More than two million medical items donated amid increased civilian casualties

Ukraine has said thousands of its civilians have died since the invasion began.

Mr Zelenskyy said there was no information about how many people had died after a theatre in Mariupol, where hundreds had been sheltering, was hit by an airstrike on Wednesday.

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Ukraine War: ‘No where is safe’

He said more than 130 people have been rescued so far, some of them seriously injured.

The UK has also donated more than two million medical items to help Ukraine, according to the Department of Health and Social Care.

After Russia expanded its military strikes to Lviv in the west of the country on Friday, Britain dispatched a truck to the region carrying insulin injections and drugs critical for surgery.

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Mr Putin has continued to hail the country’s “special operation” in Ukraine – this time at a rally marking the anniversary of the 2014 annexation of Crimea.

Moscow’s Luzhniki stadium, which hosted the World Cup final in 2018, was packed for the event, with patriot songs and crowds waving Russian flags, shouting: “Russia! Russia! Russia!”

The Great Debate airs on Sky News at 9pm on Monday

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