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Russia demands annexations recognised before talks

Russia says the West’s refusal to recognise “new territories” seized from Ukraine makes peace talks harder, after President Joe Biden indicated he would be ready to meet Vladimir Putin.

The Kremlin said it was open to negotiations, but not on the West’s demand to pull out of Ukraine.

Russia illegally annexed four Ukrainian regions at the end of September, without controlling any of them.

Nine months into its invasion, it has lost more than half the land it seized.

President Biden told reporters on Thursday night that he was ready to meet the Russian leader “if in fact there is an interest in him deciding that he’s looking for a way to end the war”.

Standing beside him in the White House, France’s Emmanuel Macron made clear the two men had agreed they would never urge the Ukrainians to make a compromise “that will not be acceptable for them”.

The apparent flurry of diplomatic activity followed months with little sign of enthusiasm for talks. Russia’s military has been forced into a retreat in southern Ukraine while launching widespread attacks on civilian infrastructure.

On Friday, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz spoke to President Putin for the first time since September. During the hour-long call, Berlin said the German leader had urged his counterpart to find a diplomatic solution that involved pulling Russian troops out of Ukraine “as soon as possible”.

Writing by Omotola Oguneye