Russian President Vladimir Putin in a Saturday phone call with his French and German counterparts Emmanuel Macron and Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Moscow stands "ready" to re-engage in peace talks with the Ukrainian government. The phone call came as some Western officials have belatedly admitted that Russian forces are making steady gains in the Donbas, also as the Luhansk is about to come under total Russian control.
The focus of the call included Macron and Scholz urging the Russian leader to immediately hold "serious negotiations" with President Zelensky; however the European leaders reportedly requested that captured Azov battalion members from Mariupol must be released, which the Kremlin balked at, also given the group's neo-Nazi identity.
A follow-up Kremlin statement said of the call that "Special attention was given to the state of affairs on the negotiating track, which is frozen because of Kiev. Vladimir Putin confirmed Russia is open to resuming the dialogue."
But neither side as yet appears willing to make serious concessions. For example, while Zelensky has in past days admitted an increasingly "difficult" situation for Ukrainian forces fighting in Donbas, he's still pledging that he'll never recognize Russian authority over any Ukrainian territory, even including Crimea.
In his latest statements in a Friday night speech, he vowed that Donbas will be "Ukrainian again"...
"That's why we have to increase our defense, increase our resistance, and Donbas will be Ukrainian again. Even if Russia will bring all suffering and ruination to Donbas, we will rebuild every town, every community. There's no real alternative," Zelensky stressed.
Putin, for his part, appears unwilling to get serious about negotiations so long as huge quantities of Western weapons are pouring into the Ukrainian side. He warned Macron and Scholz in the Saturday call that continuing the arms flow is "dangerous", saying the situation "risks of further destabilization of the situation and aggravation of the humanitarian crisis," according to a Kremlin statement.
The Russian leader condemned the dangerous "ongoing pumping of Ukraine with Western weapons..." as the conflict continues to slide into a full-blown proxy war between Russia and NATO.
This as the Biden administration is widely reported to be readying authorization of long-range missiles for Ukraine, also as it appears Stinger anti-air rockets are being transported to Kiev in larger numbers.
Massive threat of escalation by Russia. Let’s hope the West does not bottle out. Putin is now desperate to halt Western arms supplies which are now critical to Ukraine being able to stop Putin. https://t.co/5vsmvpIr2t— Timothy Ash (@tashecon) March 12, 2022
Putin also discussed with Macron and Scholz the growing global food and wheat supply crisis due to Black Sea port blockages... "Based on specific data, Vladimir Putin explained the real reasons for the difficulties with food supplies, which were the result of the misguided economic and financial policies of Western countries, as well as the anti-Russian sanctions they imposed," the Kremlin readout said. Russian officials have also laid central blame on Ukrainian forces mining their own ports as well.
The Kremlin statement emphasized, "Russia is ready to help find options for unhampered exports of grain, including exports of Ukrainian grain from the Black Sea ports". And further: "Increasing supplies of Russian fertilizers and agricultural products will also help reduce tension on the global food market, which, of course, would require removing the relevant restrictions."