Schulze phoned Putin after a diplomatic offer from Biden and Macron

Suspension

RIGA, Latvia — Russian President Vladimir Putin told German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Friday that Moscow’s relentless air strikes on Ukrainian civilian infrastructure were “forced and inevitable” because of Ukrainian attacks on the Crimean Bridge and other Russian targets, blaming Western countries. “The Destroyer”. Ukraine’s support policy to prolong the war initiated by Russia.

The hour-long call, initiated by Berlin, was Putin’s first with the G7 leader since Russia suffered a series of defeats on the battlefield, and since Moscow began its wave of attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure using missiles and self-detonations. Drones. Those attacks cut electricity, heating and water services in many parts of Ukraine, raising the risk of a humanitarian catastrophe this winter.

The call took place a day after President Biden, at a news conference with French President Emmanuel Macron in Washington, said he was willing to talk to Putin, provided the Russian leader was genuinely interested in “looking for a way to end the war.” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Friday ruled out ceding any of the territories that Russia illegally claims to have annexed.

According to the Kremlin, Putin has complained about Western countries sending weapons to Ukraine and training the country’s army, as well as their “extensive political and financial support for Ukraine”.

The Kremlin said: “The President of Russia called on the German side to reconsider its approaches in the context of the Ukrainian events.”

Russia and Ukraine are fighting their first full-scale war using drones

Amid a proposal by the European Union to establish a tribunal over alleged Russian war crimes in Ukraine, Putin has also sought to shift blame for the atrocities, accusing Ukraine of “more and more bloody crimes against the civilian population,” according to a Kremlin readout.

A German government statement said Schulz condemned Russian air strikes against civilian infrastructure in Ukraine during the call and “emphasized Germany’s determination to support Ukraine in ensuring its defensive capability against Russian aggression.”

Putin complained that the “destructive line” on the part of the West, which provides arms and financial support to Ukraine, “leads to the fact that Kyiv completely rejects the idea of ​​any negotiations.”

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Appearing with Macron, Biden said: “I’m ready to talk to Mr. Putin if there’s an interest in him deciding he’s looking for a way to end the war. If that’s the case, and in consultation with my French and NATO friends, I’d be happy to sit down with Mr. Putin to see what’s going on.” In his mind. He didn’t.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has set parameters for a peace deal, including full respect for the United Nations Charter, which requires Russia to withdraw from all illegally occupied Ukrainian territories, including Crimea. The G7 leaders, including Schulz, Biden and Macron, formally endorsed Zelensky’s proposal in a statement released in October.

Biden says he may meet with Putin – but not now

Peskov, noting that Biden conditioned any talks on Russia withdrawing from Ukraine, added that it was “clear” that Moscow was not willing to do that. “What did President Biden actually say? Negotiations will only be possible if Putin leaves Ukraine,” Peskov told reporters on Friday.

“The special military operation continues,” he said. Adding that Putin was always open to negotiations because Russia preferred to achieve its goals in Ukraine “through peaceful diplomatic means”.

Putin last spoke to Scholz and Macron in mid-September, before his attempt to illegally annex the Ukrainian regions of Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhia and Kherson, and also before an explosion on the Crimean bridge Russia said was caused by strikes on Ukrainian infrastructure. . Since then, Russia has lost significant areas, including the withdrawal from Kherson, the provincial capital.

Given those territorial losses, Putin seemed increasingly beleaguered, paranoid and hostile, as his economy sank and his global influence declined.

Setbacks in the Ukraine war undermined Russia’s influence with regional allies

Instead of signaling a willingness to make concessions, increasingly senior Russian officials began broadcasting distorted and unfounded claims, insisting that Russia was indeed the victim in the war, and trying to pin the blame for the continued fighting on Ukraine for refusing to accept it. Russian terms.

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Putin’s illegal annexations are designed to establish new Russian red lines and take territory off the table in future peace negotiations, terms he knew Kyiv would never accept. But Russia was forced to surrender the city of Kherson and other areas west of the Dnieper River, even after Russian officials repeatedly hinted that they would defend the “new lands” with nuclear weapons.

Moscow and Kiev are preparing for a harsh winter campaign that may decide their respective fates.

Schultz began the hour-long contact with Putin on Friday, but it was not clear if it was done in coordination with allies or even other EU countries, who have struggled in recent days to reach agreement on a plan. force a cover on Russian oil prices. A spokesperson for the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, said it had not been briefed on the matter prior to Schulze’s call.

Macron and Scholz have faced criticism for their sporadic contact with Putin.

Macron has been accused of remaining naive in dealing with Putin even when the Russian leader showed no willingness to change course in Ukraine.

In the early days after Putin invaded Ukraine on February 24, Schulz was criticized for the slow pace of arms deliveries and indecision that left critics wondering if he was trying to keep the door open to the Kremlin.

Even as Germany announced what it called a “Zeitenweinde,” or turning point, in foreign policy, strengthening security and sending weapons to Ukraine, reality did not keep up with expectations.

Speaking at a security conference in Berlin earlier this week, Schultz said he would like to see a return to the previous “peace regime” that existed in Europe. “What Russia is doing today goes back to the imperialist approach of the nineteenth, eighteenth and seventeenth centuries, whereby a stronger country believes it can take over its neighbor’s territory,” he said. “We have to get back to a situation where we agree again that borders will not be changed by force.”

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In its statement on Friday, the German government said Schulz told Putin that a diplomatic solution, “including the withdrawal of Russian forces, must be found as soon as possible.”

Some EU countries have also suggested that such talks with Putin risk exposing divisions among Western allies when they should present a united front in support of Ukraine.

Western allies are moving to limit the price of Russian oil at $60 a barrel

Russia is quietly betting on hopes that European unity over support for Ukraine will collapse over the winter, convinced that rising inflation and energy costs, as well as the rising cost of the war, could stoke popular anger.

A senior official from Eastern Europe said he was not informed of Schulze’s call ahead of time and learned about it from news accounts. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive issues, expressed concern that a call from Scholz could be interpreted by Putin as a sign of European weakness, likely indicating a willingness to accept an outcome other than “full liberation of Ukraine”. “

For now, the official said, “it should not be about dialogue” but about making sure there is “no space for Russia to continue terrorizing its neighbours.” The official added that with all the recent focus on holding Russia accountable, talking to “the person primarily responsible for these crimes” sends a contradictory signal.

On Thursday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia had indeed bombed civilian energy infrastructure, but claimed that this was a military target and that the attacks were intended to disrupt Western arms shipments to Ukraine.

Lavrov claimed that the Ukrainian energy system was “subordinate to Kiev’s military interests”.

Morris reports from Berlin and Rohalla from Brussels.

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