Vladimir Putin says ‘agreement will have to be reached’ to end Ukraine conflict

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Russian President says trust between Moscow and the West is ‘almost zero’

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday that an agreement would ultimately need to be struck to end fighting in Ukraine, nine months after the Kremlin launched its “special military operation” there.

Trust between Russia and the West, however, is almost at zero, Mr Putin told a summit of regional leaders in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.

“I have said many times that we are ready for these agreements [to end the war] and we are open [to them],” he added.

Mr Putin’s comments came in response to remarks from former German chancellor Angela Merkel about the Minsk agreements, negotiated with Paris and Berlin to end fighting between Russia and Ukraine.

Ms Merkel told Die Zeit newspaper that the 2014 accords were an “attempt to give Ukraine time” and that Kyiv had used it “to become stronger”.

Mr Putin said that he was “disappointed” by Ms Merkel’s comments and added that he had “always assumed that the government of Germany was acting honestly”.

“After such statements, the question becomes: how can we agree? And is there anyone to agree with? What are the guarantees?” Mr Putin asked.

Earlier, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy discussed Russia’s latest attacks on Ukraine’s infrastructure in a phone call on Friday.

Downing Street said that Mr Zelenskyy, whose wife visited London last month, “thanked the UK for its crucial support to help restore power through the supply of generators”.

Mr Sunak also made a surprise visit to Kyiv to meet Mr Zelenskyy in November.

A representative said the Prime Minister paid tribute to the “success” of the efforts of Ukraine’s armed forces to intercept Russian missiles, with Mr Sunak assuring the Ukrainian leader that the “UK was thinking of the Ukrainian people as they continued to defend their country through the winter”.

“Updating on the latest lethal aid deliveries from the UK, the Prime Minister said that more anti-air guns and further short-range air defence missiles would arrive in the coming weeks,” the representative said.

“Both leaders agreed on the importance of pre-empting Russia’s insincere calls for a ceasefire and the Prime Minister added that the Kremlin needed to withdraw its forces before any agreement could be considered.”

Meanwhile, in a sign of Russia’s clampdown on public dissent, a Moscow court sentenced opposition politician Ilya Yashin to eight and a half years in prison on charges of spreading “false information” about the army.

In a YouTube video, Mr Yashin had discussed evidence uncovered by Western journalists of Russian war crimes in Ukraine. In a post on his Telegram channel, Mr Yashin urged supporters to continue opposing the war.

Moscow has denied committing any war crimes.

In Ukraine, the fiercest fighting was near the eastern towns of Bakhmut and Avdiivka, Donetsk region’s governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said in a television interview. Five civilians were killed and two wounded in Ukrainian-controlled parts of Donetsk over the previous day, he said early on Friday.

“The entire front line is being shelled,” he said and added that Russian troops were also trying to advance near Lyman, which was recently recaptured by Ukrainian forces.