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Ukraine Willing to Consider 'Genuine' Negotiations With Russia


FILE - In this photo released by Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy leads a meeting of the National Security and Defense Council in Kyiv, Ukraine, Friday, Sept. 30, 2022.
FILE - In this photo released by Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy leads a meeting of the National Security and Defense Council in Kyiv, Ukraine, Friday, Sept. 30, 2022.

Ahead of his address to world leaders at a global climate summit on Tuesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said his country was willing to consider "genuine" negotiations with Russia.

Zelenskyy said Ukraine would be open to talks with Moscow if Ukraine's borders are restored, victims of Russia's invasion and attacks are compensated, and efforts are made to hold perpetrators accountable.

The president's comments follow a Washington Post report that said the United States wanted Ukraine to show it is willing to engage in peace talks. That willingness, according to the report, would strengthen international support for Kyiv.

"Our position has not been to push the Ukrainians into talks before they are ready, but rather to put themselves in a position such that when and if they are ready, they're doing so from a position of strength. And I think, frankly, you know, things on the ground are trending in their direction," Colin Kahl, the Pentagon's undersecretary of defense for policy, told reporters via a virtual conversation on Tuesday.

The "main condition" for such consideration would be the "restoration of Ukraine's territorial integrity," according to the head of Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council, Oleksiy Danilov.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield reiterated "steadfast" U.S. support for Ukraine Tuesday during talks with the Ukrainian president and other senior officials in Kyiv, Nate Evans, spokesperson of the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, said in a statement. The officials were discussing international efforts to minimize the impact of Russia's aggression on global food security and to ensure accountability for war crimes and atrocities perpetrated on the Ukrainian people.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon on Tuesday applauded the arrival of a new air defense system in Ukraine to protect the country against attacks from cruise missiles, drones and manned aircraft.

Brigadier General Pat Ryder, the Pentagon press secretary, confirmed that Ukrainians had recently completed training to use the first tranche of National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missiles Systems somewhere in Europe, while declining to elaborate further.

"It does add an extra arrow to the quiver, so to speak, for Ukrainian air defense," Ryder told reporters.

When asked about other potential weapons for Ukraine, Ryder stressed that "air defense continues to be a priority" for Ukraine's minister of defense. He added that the U.S. was looking at ways to bolster Ukraine's energy and hydroelectric capabilities, infrastructure that has been targeted by the Russian military.

"I can say that this is under discussion in terms of how the U.S. and allies and partners can assist … looking at things like generators, water purification, heaters, things like that," Ryder said.

North Korea and Iran

North Korea denied U.S. claims Tuesday that it is assisting Russia with artillery shells and ammunition in furthering the war on Ukraine.

U.S. officials, including Ryder, say North Korea is covertly supplying Russia with a significant number of artillery shells, and U.S. intelligence recently confirmed that Russia had reached out to Pyongyang for rockets as well.

Iran has also supplied Russia with suicide drones as well as personnel to help the Russians operate them, according to the U.S. and other Western nations. Iran has denied these allegations despite Ukraine providing evidence of Iranian-made drones that had been shot down over its territory.

"I think the big story here is how desperate the Russians have become," Kahl told reporters on Tuesday.

He said that a year or two ago, the world worried Russia would supply weapons to Iran, but now Russia has become "so attrited in terms of its conventional power" that it's going to Tehran and Pyongyang for help.

Britain's Defense Ministry said Tuesday that Russia has started constructing defensive structures around the occupied southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol, including "concrete pyramidal anti-tank structures, known as dragon's teeth."

"It could be that they are looking to defend that territory for the long term, or it could be part of a rearguard action as they look to retrograde out of that area," Ryder told reporters when asked about the defensive structures.

Also Tuesday, a Russian newspaper claimed that a discussion between the U.S. and Russia on strategic nuclear weapons is in the works. The Kommersant newspaper quoted four sources familiar with the discussions and said the talks may take place in the Middle East.

New START treaty talks between the U.S. and Russia aimed at reducing nuclear arsenals have been stalled since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.

VOA U.N. Correspondent Margaret Besheer and VOA State Department Bureau Chief Nike Ching contributed to this report.