Russian President Vladimir Putin has reiterated that the military operation against Ukraine is going according to plan and schedule, stressing that Moscow will only halt its offensive if Kiev stops fighting and the Kremlin’s demands are met.
Putin made the remarks in a phone conversation with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday, as the conflict between the two sides continues for the 11th day.
“It was underlined that the suspension of the special operation is only possible if Kyiv stops military operations and carries out well-known Russian demands,” the Kremlin said in a statement quoting the president.
Putin further said Russia is open to dialogue with Ukraine, but that he hoped Ukrainian negotiators would take a more constructive approach at the next round of talks and take into account the reality on the ground.
He emphasized that any attempt by Ukrainian negotiators to drag out the negotiations will cause the whole process to fail.
Erdogan, for his part, urged his Russian counterpart to declare a ceasefire in Ukraine, open humanitarian corridors and sign a peace agreement.
In a statement after a one-hour phone call, the Turkish presidency said Erdogan told Putin that Turkey was ready to contribute to a peaceful resolution of the conflict.
“President Erdogan, who said an immediate ceasefire will not only ease humanitarian concerns in the region but also give the search for a political solution an opportunity, renewed his call of ‘let’s pave the way for peace together’,” his office said.
“Erdogan emphasized the importance of taking urgent steps to achieve a ceasefire, open humanitarian corridors and sign a peace agreement,” it added.
On February 24, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a “special military operation” aimed at “demilitarization” of the Donetsk and Lugansk Republics in eastern Ukraine, collectively known as the Donbass.
The regions broke away from Ukraine in 2014 after refusing to recognize a Western-backed Ukrainian government that had overthrown a democratically-elected Russia-friendly administration.
Announcing the operation, Putin said the mission was aimed at “defending people who for eight years are suffering persecution and genocide by the Kiev regime.”
Russian forces have been advancing towards Kiev and seizing control of a number of towns and cities along the way. Authorities in Moscow have fiercely denied claims made by Ukrainian and Western officials of civilian areas being targeted by the Russian military.
The conflict has provoked a unanimous response from the US and allies, imposing a long list of sanctions on Moscow.
Russia and Ukraine held the second round of talks in Belarus for a way out of the conflict on Friday. A third round of talks is expected to take place on Monday.
Putin holds Ukraine responsible for March 3 power plant incident
In another phone call on Sunday, Putin talked to his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, accusing Ukrainian radicals for an incident on March 3 at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine, the Kremlin said in a statement.
During the call, the statement said, Macron asked Putin by telephone about a fire at Europe’s biggest nuclear power plant.
“Vladimir Putin informed about the provocation by Ukrainian radicals in the area of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant,” the Kremlin said, adding, “The radiation levels are normal.”
Putin also accused Ukraine of preventing civilians from leaving Mariupol.
Putin said “Ukrainian nationalists” prevented civilians and foreign citizens from leaving the port city of Mariupol and neighboring Volnovakha on Saturday despite a ceasefire announcement.
“And the pause in hostilities was again used only to build up forces and means in their positions,” Putin told Macron.
Russia banks turn to China after Visa, Mastercard suspension
Meanwhile, Russian banks have announced they plan to issue cards using China’s UnionPay system after card payment companies Visa and Mastercard suspended operations in Russia.
Russia’s largest bank Sberbank said in a statement on Sunday that it “is working on the possibility of issuing co-branded Mir-UnionPay cards,” adding that the timeframe for the issue will be announced later.
The country’s largest private lender Alfa Bank also said it is “already working on launching cards on UnionPay, China’s national payment system.”
Rosbank, Tinkoff Bank, and the Credit Bank of Moscow (MKB) are also working on releasing UnionPay cards, Russian news agencies reported.
On Saturday, the global payments companies announced that Russian Visa and Mastercard bank cards will no longer be valid abroad, and cards issued abroad will no longer work in Russia.
Source: Agencies (edited by Al-Manar English Website)