(Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that Russia wants an end to the war in Ukraine and that this would inevitably involve a diplomatic solution.
Putin made the comments a day after U.S. President Joe Biden hosted Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in the White House and promised him continued and unwavering U.S. support.
“Our goal is not to spin the flywheel of military conflict, but, on the contrary, to end this war,” Putin said. “We will strive for an end to this, and the sooner the better, of course.”
White House spokesman John Kirby said Putin has “shown absolutely zero indication that he’s willing to negotiate” an end to the war, which began when Moscow sent troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24.
“Quite the contrary,” Kirby told reporters during an online briefing. “Everything he (Putin) is doing on the ground and in the air bespeaks a man who wants to continue to visit violence upon the Ukrainian people” and “escalate the war.”
Kirby reiterated that Biden was open to talks with Putin, but only after the Russian leader “showed a seriousness about negotiations” and after consultations with Ukraine and U.S. allies.
Russia has persistently said it is open to negotiations, but Ukraine and its allies suspect a ploy to buy time after a series of Russian defeats and retreats that have swung the momentum of the 10-month war in favour of Kyiv.
“I have said many times: the intensification of hostilities leads to unjustified losses,” Putin told reporters.
“All armed conflicts end one way or another with some kind of negotiations on the diplomatic track,” he added. “Sooner or later, any parties in a state of conflict sit down and make an agreement. The sooner this realization comes to those who oppose us, the better. We have never given up on this.”
Russia says it is Ukraine that is refusing to talk. Kyiv says Russia must halt its attacks and give up all territory it has seized.
Putin also played down the significance of the Patriot air defense system that Biden agreed to supply to Zelenskiy, saying Russia would find a way to counter it.
He said it was “quite old” and did not work like Russia’s S-300 system. “An antidote will always be found,” he said, boasting Russia would “crack” the Patriots.
“So those who do it are doing it in vain. It’s just prolonging the conflict, that’s all.”
Putin also said a price cap imposed on Russian oil by Western countries, designed to limit its ability to fund the war, would not damage the Russian economy. He said he would sign a decree early next week to set out Russia’s response.
In Other Developments
* Russia says U.S. Patriot missiles in Ukraine won’t stand in its way and won’t help settle the conflict, following an announcement during Ukrainian President Zelenskiy’s visit to Washington on new defensive supplies.
* North Korea denied a Japanese media report it supplied munitions to Russia for use in Ukraine.
* The United States said North Korea had completed an initial arms delivery to a private Russian military company, the Wagner Group. Owner Yevgeny Prigozhin dismissed the assertion as “gossip and speculation”.
* The U.S. House of Representatives on Friday will vote on a government funding bill that provides more money for Ukraine’s defence.
* Fighting in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donetsk remained focused on Bakhmut and Avdiivka, about 90 km (54 miles) south, the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said.
* Russian Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov said the frontline in Ukraine was stable, and that Moscow’s forces had concentrated on “completing the liberation of the territory of the Donetsk People’s Republic”.
* Russian former deputy prime minister Dmitry Rogozin says he was wounded in an explosion in a part of Ukraine occupied by Russian forces and required surgery, the latest in a series of attacks on pro-Moscow officials.
* Reuters was not able to independently confirm the battlefield reports.
* U.S. Secretary of State Blinken thanked his Turkish counterpart for Ankara’s work on ensuring the continuation of a Black Sea grain export deal. The two diplomats also underscored the importance of NATO unity in supporting Ukraine.
* The United States imposed sanctions on 10 Russian naval entities over Russian operations against Ukrainian ports, the U.S. State Department said.
* A pair of bills granting the U.S. Justice Department additional tools to prosecute Russian oligarchs and suspected war criminals appeared poised to become law.