Putin says Russia is just getting started in Ukraine, peace talks will get harder with time

  • Putin adopts aggressive tone, but hints at diplomacy opportunity
  • Kremlin chief challenges West to try to beat Russia on battlefield
  • Sanctions that cause problems, but not intended to scale, he says

LONDON, July 7 (Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that Russia was just getting started in Ukraine and the West dared to try and beat it on the battlefield, while insisting that Moscow was still open to the idea of ​​peace talks.

In an aggressive speech to parliamentary leaders more than four months after the war, Putin said the prospects for negotiations would diminish the longer the conflict dragged on.

“Today we hear that they want to beat us on the battlefield. What can you say, let them try,” he said.

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“We have often heard that the West wants to fight with us to the last Ukrainian. This is a tragedy for the Ukrainian people, but it seems that everything is coming down to this.”

Russia accuses the West of waging a proxy war against the West by slashing its economy with sanctions and ramping up supplies of advanced weapons to Ukraine.

But while boasting that Russia was just getting started, Putin also referred to the possibility of negotiations.

“Everyone should know that we generally haven’t started anything serious yet,” he added. “At the same time, we do not reject peace talks. But those who reject them should know that the further it goes, the harder it will be for them to negotiate with us.”

It was the first reference to diplomacy in many weeks after repeated statements from Moscow that negotiations with Kiev had broken down completely.

Since invading Ukraine on February 24, Russian forces have captured large parts of the country, including completing the seizure of the eastern region of Luhansk last Sunday.

But their progress has been much slower than many analysts had predicted, and they were beaten back in the first attempts to take the capital Kiev and the second city of Kharkov.

The prospects for a compromise seem distant as Ukraine, emboldened by Western support and the heavy losses it inflicted on its opponent in terms of both manpower and equipment, has talked about driving Russia out of all the territory it has taken.

Ukraine’s chief negotiator, Mykhailo Podolyak, said on Twitter this week that the terms to resume talks would include: “Ceasefire. Z-troop withdrawal. Return of kidnapped civilians. Extradition of war criminals. Damage repair mechanism. Recognition of Ukraine’s sovereign rights.”

Putin said it was clear that Western sanctions were a problem, “but not at all what the initiators of the economic blitzkrieg against Russia were counting on.”

Parliamentary leaders responded to Putin’s comments and Sergei Mironov of the A Just Russia party encouraged him to create a special agency to facilitate the integration of the occupied Ukrainian territories into Russia — an idea Putin promised to discuss.

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Additional reporting by Ronald Popeski; Editing by Leslie Adler

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