Skepticism fostered over peace talks as Ukraine stands firm on giving up territory

The West must have a “degree of skepticism” about the prospect of a peace deal between Russia and Ukraine, the Chancellor said, as kyiv sought to stand firm against giving up territory in a settlement.

Rishi Sunak said any deal with Moscow must be on “Ukrainian terms” as he pledged the UK would “maintain the significant pressure we are putting” on Russian President Vladimir Putin after his invasion.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said last week that Russian demands in talks between warring nations were becoming “more realistic” as kyiv continues to push for a ceasefire.

But Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has expressed concern that Mr Putin is using the negotiations as a “smokescreen” to prepare for an even more brutal onslaught.

Speaking on Sunday, the Chancellor said it was “encouraging” that talks were underway, but the West must be on guard.

Mr Sunak told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday: ‘You must have some skepticism about this given the track record of these things.

“I think the most important thing is that any settlement discussion has to be on Ukraine’s terms.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak was asked about the Ukraine crisis in talks on Sunday (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

(PA wire)

“And the best thing we can do is just to maintain the significant pressure we are putting on Putin, but also to provide support to the Ukrainians in the meantime – that’s the best we can do and the Ukrainians will take the lead.”

An official in Mr. Zelensky’s office told The Associated Press that the main topic of discussion between the two sides last week was whether Russian troops would remain in breakaway areas in eastern Ukraine after the war and where the borders would be.

But a Ukrainian politician said while her country was open to further encounters with Russia, it was not ready to cede land to the aggressor.

Olha Stefanishyna, Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration, told Sky News that reshuffling of Ukraine’s borders was “absolutely not” being considered.

“Ukrainian territory is territory that has been fixed (since) 1991,” she said.

“It’s not an option to discuss.”

According to reports, kyiv insisted on the inclusion of one or more Western nuclear powers in negotiations with the Kremlin and on legally binding security guarantees for Ukraine.

Olha Stefanishyna, Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine, was interviewed by Sophie Raworth on BBC One (Jeff Overs/BBC)

(PA Media)

Asked if the UK would act as the guarantor of Ukrainians’ security under a peace deal, Mr Sunak – who confirmed his family would not take in Ukrainian refugees – said said it was “probably a bit too early to go into specifics”. of what a deal might look like.

It comes as an art school housing 400 people sheltering from Russian shelling was shelled by the Muscovite army, according to officials in the besieged city of Mariupol, which is facing a humanitarian disaster.

Local authorities said on Sunday that the school building had been destroyed and people could be trapped under the rubble.

There was no immediate word on casualties, with rescuers still working to try to free survivors of a separate earlier attack on a theater in the city where more than 1,000 people were believed to have been sheltered.

A former head of British defense intelligence has predicted that Mr Putin’s troops will “redouble their brute force” after seeing their campaign stagnate sharply.

Air Marshal Philip Osborn said the Russian forces are “demoralized because they were ill-prepared and proved inadequate”, and are now at a standstill because they have “lost momentum”.

He told Sophy Ridge: “We see them pulling resources and manpower from all over Russia, even Syria, and that’s not a good indication for a supposed superpower.

(PA graphics)

(PA graphics)

“They’re at a standstill because they’re running out of options.”

The Russian military confirmed on Sunday that it used a long-range hypersonic weapon for the second time as it sought to target Ukrainian military installations.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said the hypersonic Kinzhal missile hit a Ukrainian fuel depot in Kostiantynivka, near the Black Sea port of Mykolaiv.

The strike marked the second day in a row Russia has used the Kinzhal, a weapon capable of hitting targets 1,250 miles away at 10 times the speed of sound.

Elsewhere, Boris Johnson has urged China to come out of the fence and join in global condemnation of the Russian invasion.

The prime minister, in comments to The Sunday Times, said he believed some members of Xi Jinping’s administration had “thoughts” on Beijing’s neutral stance following Russia’s actions against its next to.

Laura J. Boyer