KYIV – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky made it clear on Sunday that he was not ready for negotiations with Russia unless Russian forces withdrew from Ukrainian territory.
This statement comes as Kyiv investigates a deadly missile strike on Ukrainian soldiers.
The conflict in Ukraine has reached a critical juncture with both sides entrenched in their positions, and any attempts at counter-offensives have shown limited success.
While officials from the United States and Europe have reportedly suggested negotiations to end the conflict, Zelensky, in a recent interview with NBC television, expressed his unwillingness to engage with Russia without troop withdrawal.
He stated, “The United States knows I am not ready to speak with the terrorists because their word is nothing. They have to leave our territory, and only after that can diplomacy begin.”
Zelensky acknowledged the challenging situation in the ongoing conflict and emphasized the need for more air defences to regain control of the sky from Russia.
Ukraine probes deadly missile strike
A recent missile strike attributed to Russia resulted in multiple casualties among Ukrainian soldiers during what was described as an “award ceremony.”
The attack led to a criminal investigation by Ukrainian authorities.
The incident reportedly took place during an awards ceremony for a brigade in Ukraine’s southern Zaporizhzhia region, resulting in the deaths of at least 20 troops.
In response, President Zelensky described it as a “tragedy that could have been avoided.”
He assured that a criminal investigation was underway, saying, “The main thing is to establish the full truth about what happened and to prevent this from happening again.”
The exact details of the attack and the number of casualties could not be independently verified by AFP.
Russian sources reported that the missile strike resulted in a “fire defeat” of a Ukrainian assault unit in Zaporizhzhia, with up to 30 casualties.
A Ukrainian soldier posted on social media that 22 individuals from the brigade were killed and criticized the commanders for holding the ceremony.
Shipyard damaged in Crimea
Ukraine launched a missile strike targeting a shipyard in Russia’s annexed Crimea, according to reports.
Russia confirmed the attack on Sunday, noting that 15 Ukrainian cruise missiles struck the B.E. Butoma shipyard in the city of Kerch on the Crimean peninsula.
Russian air defenses were reportedly able to intercept 13 of these missiles.
The missile strike caused damage to a ship located at the plant, according to the Russian defense ministry.
No further details about the damage or the vessel were provided.
Debris from the intercepted missiles fell on a nearby dock, but no injuries were reported.
Tensions in the Black Sea have escalated in recent times, particularly after Moscow’s withdrawal from a Black Sea grain deal that was intended to ensure the safe passage of civilian ships through the region.
Ukrainian and Russian military activities around the Black Sea have intensified since then.