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Truss warns Russia could use peace talks as strategy to regroup for more attacks

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said she was ‘very sceptical’ about the Kremlin’s approach as Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky called for talks.

19 March 2022

Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky has called on Vladimir Putin to hold face-to-face talks despite UK fears Moscow will use negotiations as a “smokescreen” to prepare for an even more brutal assault.

Mr Zelensky used a video message to say “it’s time to meet, time to talk” but, in the UK, Cabinet ministers urged caution about talks with the Putin regime.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said it was up to Mr Zelensky how his country approached peace talks but she was “very sceptical” about the Kremlin’s position.

She told The Times: “If a country is serious about negotiations, it doesn’t indiscriminately bomb civilians that day.”

Ms Truss said talks could be a “smokescreen” and “what we’ve seen is an attempt to create space for the Russians to regroup”.

Tory party chairman Oliver Dowden told Times Radio: “We of course have to treat the Russians with a high degree of scepticism given that they were the ones that commenced this war.”

He said the UK had to have a “hard-headed sceptical approach” but “if we can find a way through to a peaceful and negotiated settlement we should of course try to achieve that”.

British defence intelligence specialists believe Russia will wage a war of attrition, having failed in its goal of rapidly conquering its neighbour.

“This is likely to involve the indiscriminate use of firepower resulting in increased civilian casualties, destruction of Ukrainian infrastructure, and intensify the humanitarian crisis,” the Ministry of Defence said.

In other developments:

– Ms Truss, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and Prime Minister Boris Johnson are due to address Tory activists gathered at the party’s spring conference in Blackpool on Saturday.

– The Home Office said 8,600 visas had been issued under the Ukraine family scheme by 5pm on Friday.

– Ukraine’s ambassador to the UK Vadym Prystaiko told the PA news agency that London-based consumer giant Unilever should close its operations in Russia.

– Former prime minister David Cameron was heading to Poland to deliver supplies to refugees fleeing the war in neighbouring Ukraine.

– His predecessor Gordon Brown called for a new international tribunal to be set up to prosecute Mr Putin and his allies.

In Ukraine, fighting continued on multiple fronts but 10 humanitarian corridors were established for aid and refugees – including one from the besieged port city of Mariupol and several around capital Kyiv.

The UK Ministry of Defence said: “The Kremlin has so far failed to achieve its original objectives.

“It has been surprised by the scale and ferocity of Ukrainian resistance.”

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