At a moment Russian forces are believed to be on the cusp of taking the major southeast city of Mariupol, after the Ukrainians rejected the Kremlin's terms of surrender for the city, a fresh statement from the Russian side has yet again cited "no significant progress" in ceasefire talks, while stating Moscow is not ready for a proposed meeting with Zelensky.
The invasion which kicked off on Feb.24 and shocked the world will reach a full month by close of this week. Starting last week reports emerged that Turkey was working hard to get Presidents Putin and Zelensky at the negotiating table in face to face talks. Given Russia's overwhelming manpower and military superiority, despite reports of serious losses, it's not expected that the Russian leader would agree to any top level negotiations like this anytime soon.
"For us to speak of a meeting between the two presidents, homework has to be done. Talks have to be held and their results agreed upon," Putin spokesperson Dimitry Peskov said Monday, according to Reuters. "There has been no significant progress so far."
Last week Peskov had said that "when there's progress, we'll tell you" - in reference to the continuing negotiations taking place between lower level delegations toward reaching a battlefield ceasefire, or at least longer lasting local ceasefires.
As for the Ukrainians, according to comments given to CNN on Sunday, Zelensky told Fareed Zakaria he's "ready to talk to Putin at any time." But Zelensky is simultaneously urging Europe to ban Russian energy and ratchet up sanctions measures even more, pleas which have without doubt angered the Kremlin.
CNN detailed of the interview, "His offer came more than three weeks into a war that appears to be entering a new, more deadlocked stage on the battlefield. And while that counts as an extraordinary military success for outgunned Ukraine, it will also leave its cities and people even more vulnerable to brutal Russian bombardments." And more via CNN:
"It's a stalemate. But we should note it's a bloody stalemate," ex-CIA Director David Petraeus, a retired general who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, said on CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday. "Also, arguably, it's a battle of attrition."
For now each side is blaming the other for failure to significant progress through five rounds of talks:
Peskov on Monday also suggested that Russia was more willing to engage in talks than Ukraine.
"Those [countries] who can should use their influence over Kyiv to make it more accommodating and construction at these talks," Peskov said, according to Reuters.
However, there are still periodic glimmers of a hoped-for breakthrough based on the 'neutrality' question in regards to the NATO alliance:
Russia's top negotiator at talks with Ukraine said Friday that Moscow and Kyiv had brought their positions "as close as possible" on a proposal for Ukraine to become a neutral state.
The Kremlin on Wednesday said that a neutral Ukraine along the lines of Sweden or Austria was being discussed at talks with Kyiv to end three weeks of a Russian military operation there.
RUSSIA STILL HAS SIGNIFICANT MAJORITY OF BALLISTIC MISSILE CAPABILITY STILL AVAILABLE, MORE THAN HALF OF AIR-LAUNCHED CRUISE MISSILE CAPABILITY AVAILABLE - SENIOR U.S. DEFENSE OFFICIAL— First Squawk (@FirstSquawk) March 21, 2022
In addition to Turkey, Israel is also said to be working diplomatically behind the scenes to bring to county's two leaders for direct talks leading to a halt to the fighting.