In call with Scholz, Putin says Kyiv is stalling peace talks with Moscow

Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) told German Chancellor Olaf Scholz that Moscow was ready to search for solutions. PHOTOS: REUTERS/AFP

MOSCOW (AFP, REUTERS) - Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday (March 18) accused Ukrainian authorities of stalling talks, but added that Moscow was ready to search for solutions as he spoke with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

"It was noted that the Kyiv regime is trying in every possible way to stall negotiations, putting forward more and more unrealistic proposals," the Kremlin said after the phone call.

"Nevertheless, the Russian side is ready to continue to search for solutions in line with its well-known principled approaches."

Mr Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the phone talks between Mr Putin and Mr Scholz "tough" but added that such contacts were still needed.

Mr Peskov said it was still early to talk about an agreement that Russian and Ukrainian negotiators could sign.

"I can only state that the Russian delegation is showing a willingness to work much faster than it is doing now," he told reporters.

"Unfortunately, the Ukrainian delegation is not ready to accelerate the pace of talks."

Moscow has previously said it was close to agreeing a formula that would keep Ukraine neutral, one of its key demands.

Ukraine has said it is willing to negotiate but will not surrender or accept Russian ultimatums. It is sticking to its position that it retains sovereignty over areas seized by Russia and Russian-backed forces since 2014.

In talks with Mr Scholz, Mr Putin also stressed that Russian troops were "doing their best" to save civilians including through safe corridors, the Kremlin said, adding that some 43,000 people had been evacuated from the south-eastern city of Mariupol on Thursday.

German Chancellor Scholz called for a ceasefire in Ukraine during the phone call on Friday, a German government spokesman said.

In their nearly hour-long conversation, Mr Scholz also stressed that the humanitarian situation needed to be improved and progress needed to be made in finding a diplomatic solution as soon as possible, said the spokesman.

Mr Putin will also speak by phone with French President Emmanuel Macron Friday evening, Mr Peskov said.

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