Putin: Russia ready to talk on Ukraine

2023-12-21 16:30:15China Daily Editor : Mo Honge ECNS App Download

Russia is prepared to talk to Ukraine and its Western backers about the future of its neighbor if they want to, President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday but stressed that Moscow would defend its interests.

"In Ukraine, those who are aggressive toward Russia, and in Europe and in the United States — do they want to negotiate? Let them. But we will do it based on our national interests," Putin told a meeting of the Defense Ministry's board in Moscow.

"We will not give up what is ours," Putin said, adding that Russia did not intend to fight with Europe.

According to the state news agency TASS, the meeting was attended by the military top brass, including Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu and General Valery Gerasimov, chief of the general staff of Russia's armed forces, as well as Federal Security Service Director Alexander Bortnikov.

Russian troops, Putin said, now had the initiative on the battlefield.

"We are not going to abandon the goals of the special military operation," Putin said, adding that Russia needs better military communication, reconnaissance, targeting and satellite capability.

He said Russia's defense industry was responding faster than that of the West, vowing that Russia would continue to upgrade its nuclear forces and keep its combat readiness at a high level.

Shoigu told the meeting that Russia's production of tanks has increased since the launch of the special military operation in February 2022 by 5.6 times, unmanned aerial vehicles by 16.8 times and artillery shells by 17.5 times.

He said Russia had recruited 490,000 soldiers on contract and voluntary basis in 2023 and will try to boost the contracted force to 745,000 men next year.

Meanwhile, the Russian Foreign Ministry said it had summoned Finland's ambassador on Tuesday to object to a new military agreement granting the US broad access to the vicinity of the new NATO member's long border with Russia.

Counter measures

Russian officials informed the ambassador that Moscow would "take the necessary measures to counter the aggressive decisions of Finland and its NATO allies", notably the growing NATO military presence near its border, ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a statement.

Helsinki became the US-led NATO military alliance's newest member this past year as its agreement with Washington is "aimed at allowing swift military access and aid to Finland in case of conflict".

The Kremlin said on Friday the pact would "pose an obvious threat to us" and lead to regional tensions.

In Washington, the Democratic and Republican leaders of the Senate said on Tuesday that the US will not be able to approve new aid for Ukraine before the end of the year, as the two sides continue to seek a compromise. "As negotiators work through remaining issues, it is our hope that their efforts will allow the Senate to take swift action … early in the new year," Democrat Chuck Schumer and Republican Mitch McConnell said in a joint statement.

The announcement from Capitol Hill marked another setback for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, whose government has warned of the "dire need" for weapons ahead of winter, Agence France-Presse commented.

The congressional impasse is also a blow to US President Joe Biden, who has made support for Ukraine and the strengthening of the Atlantic alliance hallmarks of his foreign policy, it added.


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