Putin says Ukraine must withdraw troops, end NATO bid for peace talks

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday that Moscow would only halt its offensive on Ukraine if Kiev effectively surrenders by pulling its troops out of the east and south and dropping its bid for NATO membership.

Ukraine immediately rejected Putin's hardline "conditions" to halt the full-scale military offensive that he launched in February 2022, with Kiev trying to corral international support at a major peace summit in Switzerland this weekend.

The two countries have been locked in bloody conflict for more than two years, and no direct peace talks have been held since the first weeks of Russia's campaign, when it was advancing on the Ukrainian capital.

Ukraine has called for the full withdrawal of Russian troops from its internationally recognised territory, including the annexed Crimean peninsula, as part of any peace deal.

But with Russia advancing on the battlefield once again and Ukraine struggling in the face of both manpower and ammunition shortages, Putin's comments show little appetite in Moscow to compromise.

"Ukrainian troops must be completely withdrawn from the Donetsk People's Republic, the Lugansk People's Republic, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions," Putin said in a televised address to Russian diplomats in Moscow.

Russia claimed to have annexed the four regions in 2022, despite not having full control over any of them.

The regional capitals of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia are still in Ukrainian hands.

"As soon as Kiev says it is ready to do this and begins really withdrawing troops and officially renounces plans to join NATO, we will immediately, literally that very minute, cease fire and begin talks," Putin said.

Russia has repeatedly said it will keep fighting until the goals of...

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