Any potential peace talks between Russia and Ukraine cannot be a "fig leaf" for rearmament, British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly has warned, while threats from Russia on the possible use of nuclear weapons intensify.
Speaking to Sky News on Sunday, Dec. 11, Cleverly said that Britain wanted to see negotiations taking place "sooner rather than later", but warned against them being used to benefit Russia’s ongoing invasion.
"Any negotiations need to be real; they need to be meaningful," he said. "They can’t just be a fig leaf for Russian rearmament and further recruitment of soldiers."
Although difficult to provide an exact figure, Ukraine’s General Staff of the Armed Forces stated in a Facebook post on Friday, Dec. 9, that Russian personnel losses had passed 90,000, with conscriptions continuing to cause public unrest across Russia.
Earlier this month, the Kremlin claimed that it was open to negotiations, after President Joe Biden indicated he would be ready to meet President Putin – but stressed that they would not give up four regions of Ukraine regions illegally annexed by its forces.
Pouring cold water on the possibility, however, Mr. Cleverly told Sky News: "I’m not really seeing anything coming from the Russian side that gives me confidence that Vladimir Putin is entering these talks in good faith. The wider rhetoric is still very confrontational."
President Volodymyr Zelensky has already rejected the alleged seeking of a "short truce” by Russia, citing similar concerns expressed by Cleverly.
In a pre-recorded video played at the Halifax International Security Forum in November, the Ukrainian President said "Russia is now looking for a short truce, a respite to regain strength.
"Someone may call this the war’s end,” he added. “But such a respite will only worsen the situation. Immoral compromises will only lead to new blood."
Meanwhile, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian news agencies on Sunday, Dec. 11, that Russia invaded Ukraine because of concerns about the Minsk agreements "being ignored".
The Minsk agreements, agreed between Kyiv and Russian-backed separatist forces in 2015, were intended to instigate a ceasefire and “constitutional reform”.
However, Putin has frequently used various excuses for the ongoing invasion, including falsely accusing the "Kyiv regime" of being neo-Nazi, despite zero evidence and President Zelensky being Jewish.
Responding to a journalist who asked if Russia believed it had been "deceived" over the Minsk accords, Peskov said: "Over time, of course, it became obvious."
"And, again, President Putin and our other representatives constantly kept saying this," he added. "But this was all ignored by the other participants of the negotiation process. This is all precisely the precursor to the special military operation."
Calls for negotiations to take place between the two nations come amid intensifying "nuclear posturing" from the Kremlin.
Citing what he called "the US preventative-strike idea", Putin warned last week that the risk of Russia using nuclear weapons on Ukraine was increasing, saying that Russia may consider formally adding the possibility of a "preventive nuclear first strike".
"We’re thinking about this," he told reporters at a summit in Kyrgyzstan. "If we are talking about a disarming strike, perhaps we should think about using the approaches of our American partners."
Putin claimed Russia had already commissioned hypersonic weapons, and that Moscow now has cruise missiles surpassing U.S. capabilities.
"If the potential adversary believes that it can use the theory of a pre-emptive strike and we don’t, it makes us think about the threats posed by such ideas in the defensive posture of other countries," he said.
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