Kremlin mocks Ukrainian plan for peace conference without Russia

France rallies European support for Kyiv as Russia creeps forward on battlefield

Russia has dismissed Ukraine’s plan to hold a peace conference without its involvement, as Kyiv said its forces had abandoned a village near the recently occupied eastern town of Avdiivka and taken up strong defensive positions in Kupiansk to the north.

Ukraine hopes to gather representatives of more than 150 countries in Switzerland for spring talks to rally support for a 10-point peace plan drawn up by Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy that could then, at a follow-up summit, be presented to Russian officials as an opportunity to end the countries’ war.

“We have said repeatedly that this is a strange format, to say the least, because some peace plans are being discussed without Russia’s participation, which in itself is unserious and even laughable,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday.

Two years into Russia’s all-out invasion of its pro-western neighbour, prospects for a negotiated resolution are extremely dim: Russia says no peace talks are possible until Ukraine accepts the occupation of large swathes of its territory and gives up its Nato membership ambitions; Kyiv, meanwhile, demands that Moscow remove troops from all occupied territory and must pay reparations and face prosecution for war crimes.


Mr Zelenskiy has rejected the notion of negotiating with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, and said on Sunday that he would only be invited to a peace conference to “agree that he has lost this war and that it was a big mistake”.

Ukraine said its forces had left the village of Lastochkyne on the outskirts of Avdiivka – which Russia seized 10 days ago after four months of artillery bombardment had left it in ruins – and took up positions near three other villages a few kilometres to the west.

“The Ukrainian armed forces withdrew from the village of Lastochkyne to mount a defence along the Orlivka-Tonenke-Berdychi line and prevent the enemy from advancing further in a westward direction,” said military spokesman Dmytro Lykhovii.

Kyiv said its troops were also on the defensive in the Kupiansk area of Kharkiv region in the northeast, which was liberated in September 2022.

“The main settlement [targeted by] the enemy there is still Kupiansk, where it continues to mass all its forces and reserves. In this area it also has quite a lot of different equipment and personnel… In addition, KAB [guided bombs] and Su-34 and Su-35 [fighter jets] are now being used very heavily,” said Ukrainian military spokesman Illia Yevlash.

“We have occupied quite powerful fortifications and built a defensive line … near Kupiansk, as well as concrete bunkers, and a lot of engineering structures have been kitted out,” he added.

Russia is on the offensive before presidential elections next month that will inevitably extend Mr Putin’s 24-year rule, and as Ukraine rations its use of artillery because US Republicans in Congress have refused to approve more military aid for Kyiv.

“The president is informed online about the situation at the front… He is made aware of everything instantly,” Mr Peskov said. “We wish success to our valiant military.”

French president Emmanuel Macron hosted about 20 other European heads of state on Monday evening for a gathering that his office said would “reaffirm their unity as well as their determination to defeat the war of aggression waged by Russia in Ukraine”.

An adviser to Mr Macron told a press briefing: “We want to send Putin a very clear message, that he won’t win in Ukraine.”

European Union states have delivered only half of the one million shells that they promised last year to send to Kyiv by March, and Ukraine said on Sunday that it was losing lives and land because 50 per cent of western military aid arrives later than planned.

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Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin is a contributor to The Irish Times from central and eastern Europe