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Putin vows truce if Ukraine exits Moscow-occupied areas and drops NATO bid — a nonstarter for Kyiv

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Russian President Vladimir Putin promised Friday to “immediately” order a cease-fire in Ukraine and begin negotiations if Kyiv started withdrawing troops from the four regions annexed by Moscow in 2022 and renounced plans to join NATO.

Such a deal appears a nonstarter for Kyiv, which wants to join the military alliance and has demanded that Russia withdraw its troops from all of its territory. There was no immediate comment from Ukraine on Putin’s proposal.

“We will do it immediately,” Putin said in a speech at the Russian Foreign Ministry in Moscow.

His remarks came as leaders of the Group of Seven leading industrialized nations met in Italy and as Switzerland prepared to host scores of world leaders — but not from Moscow — this weekend to try to map out first steps toward peace in Ukraine. The U.S. and Ukraine this week also signed a 10-year security agreement that they hailed as a milestone in relations.

Russia launched its a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. After Ukrainian forces thwarted a Russian drive to the capital, much of the fighting has focused in the south and east – and Russia illegally annexed regions in the east and the south, although it doesn’t fully control any of them.

Putin said his proposal is aimed at a “final resolution” of the conflict in Ukraine rather than “freezing it,” and stressed that the Kremlin is “ready to start negotiations without delay.”

Broader demands for peace that the Russian leader listed included Ukraine’s non-nuclear status, restrictions on its military force and protecting the interests of the Russian-speaking population in the country. All of these should become part of “fundamental international agreements,” and all Western sanctions against Russia should be lifted, Putin said.

“We’re urging to turn this tragic page of history and to begin restoring, step-by-step, restore the unity between Russia and Ukraine and in Europe in general,” he said.

Putin’s remarks represented a rare occasion in which he clearly laid out his conditions for ending the war in Ukraine, but it didn’t include any new demands. The Kremlin has said before that Kyiv should recognize its territorial gains and drop its bid to join NATO.

Russia doesn’t fully control any of the four regions it illegally annexed in 2022, but Putin insisted Friday that Kyiv should withdraw from them entirely and essentially cede them to Moscow within their administrative borders. In Zaporizhzhia in the southeast, Russia still doesn’t control the region’s namesake administrative capital with a pre-war population of about 700,000, and in the neighboring Kherson region, Moscow withdrew from Kherson’s biggest city and capital of the same name in November 2022.

Putin said that if “Kyiv and Western capitals” reject his offer, “it is their business, their political and moral responsibility for continuing the bloodshed.”

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