Biden vows to speak to despot Putin face-to-face only if he ends war

Russia: Putin's economic concerns discussed by Petukhov

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The US President said he was prepared to hear what the Russian despot is “willing to do” to end the bloodshed. But he insisted he would only meet Putin with the blessing of his Nato allies.

“There’s one way for this war to end – the rational way,” he said. “Putin to pull out of Ukraine, number one. But it appears he’s not going to do that. He’s paying a very high price for failing to do it.”

Speaking at a White House after talks with French counterpart Emmanuel Macron, Mr Biden added: “The fact of the matter is I have no immediate plans to contact Mr Putin.”

The US President then said he would “choose his words carefully”.

He said: “I am prepared to speak with Mr Putin, if in fact there is an interest in him deciding he’s looking for a way to end the war. He hasn’t done that yet.

“If that’s the case, in consultation with my French and my Nato friends, I’ll be happy to sit down with Putin and see what he has in mind. He hasn’t done that yet.”

However, Putin;’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Moscow was certainly not ready to accept US conditions: “What did President Biden say in fact? He said that negotiations are possible only after Putin leaves Ukraine.”

It complicated the search for a mutual basis for talks, he said, that the US did not recognise “new territories” in Ukraine, which Russia illegally claimed as its own at the end of September.

President Macron made clear that he had agreed with Mr Biden that they would never urge the Ukrainians to make a compromise “that will not be acceptable for them”.

German chancellor Olaf Scholz has also urged the Putin to find a diplomatic solution to the conflict “including a withdrawal of Russian troops”.

It comes as details of the horrific toll the war is taking on Ukrainian forces, with up to 13,000 soldiers having been killed so far.

Presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said: “We have official figures from the general staff, we have official figures from the top command, and they amount to (between) 10,000 and 12,500 to 13,000 killed.

“We are open in talking about the number of dead,” he added, saying more soldiers had been wounded than had died.

Last month America’s top general estimated that Russia’s military had seen more than 100,000 of its soldiers killed and wounded in Ukraine, and added Kyiv’s armed forces “probably” suffered a similar level of casualties.

Oleksiy Arestovych, another of Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s advisers, claimed on Wednesday that the Russian death toll was around seven times that of Ukraine’s.

Meanwhile, the International Atomic Energy Agency hopes to reach an agreement with Russia and Ukraine to create a protection zone at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant by the end of the year.

The nuclear plant, Europe’s biggest, provided about a fifth of Ukraine’s electricity before Russia’s invasion, and has been forced to operate on back-up generators a number of times.

Repeated shelling around the Russian-held plant has raised concern about the potential for a grave accident just 300 miles from the site of the world’s worst nuclear accident, the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

“My commitment is to reach a solution as soon as possible. I hope by the end of the year,” Rafael Grossi, the head of the UN atomic watchdog said.

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