The Kremlin denounced Thursday a lack of “willingness to listen to Russia” after the visit to the United States of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, while Vladimir Putin said he wanted the conflict to end “as soon” as possible.
On the way back to his country, Mr. Zelensky met the Polish head of state Andrzej Duda in Poland, before arriving in Ukraine a few hours later.
“We are coming back from Washington with good results. With something that will really help,” he said in a video shot in Poland, referring to the delivery of an American Patriot missile system, which kyiv had been asking for months. .
For his part, Russian President Vladimir Putin brushed aside the benefits for Ukraine of this “rather old system”.
“Our opponents assume it’s a defensive weapon. Fine, we’ll keep that in mind. And there’s always an antidote,” he said.
“It’s only a way to prolong the conflict, that’s all,” said Putin, who however said he wanted to end the fighting in Ukraine quickly.
“We will strive to make sure this ends. And the sooner the better, of course,” he said.
In Washington, the head of American diplomacy Antony Blinken reacted to this declaration by considering that the Kremlin had shown no “significant” desire to end this war.
“Basically today, Russia has shown no interest (in engaging) in meaningful diplomacy” to end the war, he said.
In Poland, during his meeting with Mr. Duda, President Zelensky said that he discussed with him the events of the past year but also “discussed strategic plans for the future, bilateral relations and interactions at the international level in 2023”.
On Wednesday, during his trip to Washington, his first abroad since the beginning of the Russian offensive in February, the Ukrainian president was received as a hero, talking with his counterpart Joe Biden and delivering a speech to the applause of the American parliamentarians.
He also garnered the promise of a massive support package of nearly $45 billion and new arms deliveries.
– “Russia’s concerns” –
“So far, we can note with regret that neither President Biden nor President Zelensky have said anything that could be perceived as a potential willingness to listen to Russia’s concerns,” reacted Thursday. Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
According to him, during this visit there were no “genuine calls for peace” or American “warnings” to Mr. Zelensky against “the continued bombardment of apartment buildings in populated areas”. Donbass”, a region in eastern Ukraine partly controlled by pro-Russian separatists.
“It shows that the United States continues its de facto and indirect line of war with Russia, to the last Ukrainian,” the spokesman added.
On Wednesday, the day of Volodymyr Zelensky’s visit to the United States, the Kremlin warned that further US arms deliveries to Ukraine would only “aggravate” the conflict.
Mr. Zelensky had meanwhile said that Western aid to his country was an “investment in global security and democracy”, and “not charity”.
In Rome, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni also said she wanted to visit Ukraine at the beginning of 2023.
On the ground, Russia has suffered major setbacks in recent months.
In response, it opted from October for a tactic of massive bombing of Ukrainian infrastructure, depriving millions of people of electricity, water and heating in the middle of winter.
These cuts notably affected the capital, kyiv, where the energy situation remained “difficult” on Thursday, according to the head of its military administration, Serguiï Popko.
To stem the dynamics of kyiv, Washington also affirmed Thursday that the paramilitary group Wagner, present in Ukraine, had received “last month” an arms delivery from North Korea, to the point of soon becoming a power ” rival” of the Russian regular army.
– Inspection in Ukraine –
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu went for an inspection of Russian positions in Ukraine, his ministry announced on Thursday, without specifying the exact place or date of this trip.
He had already been to the “special operation” area a few days earlier, a sign of Moscow’s desire for closer control of its soldiers there.
The Chief of Staff, Valéri Guerassimov, for his part confirmed that the objective of the Russian forces in Ukraine was now to conquer the entire industrial region of Donetsk. He said he saw a “stabilization” of the front line, 815 kilometers long according to him.
In the East, the ex-boss of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, was injured in a Ukrainian attack against a hotel in Donetsk, one of the strongholds of the pro-Russian separatists.
For Moscow, this strike, in which several other people were hit, sometimes fatally, was “probably” carried out using a French Caesar cannon, several of which were delivered to Ukraine.
In the Kherson region (south), a chief of a Ukrainian locality under Russian control was also killed Thursday in a bomb attack, according to the Russian occupation administration.
Kremlin sees ‘no willingness to listen to Russia’ after Zelensky’s visit to Washington