Zelenskyy calls for talks after Putin claims Ukraine is using civilians as ‘human shields’

4 March 2022, 00:01 | Updated: 4 March 2022, 06:23

Volodymyr Zelenskyy asked the Vladimir Putin to sit down with him at the negotiation table
Volodymyr Zelenskyy asked the Vladimir Putin to sit down with him at the negotiation table. Picture: Alamy

By Megan Hinton

The president of Ukraine has called on Vladimir Putin to meet him to set up negotiations saying "I don't bite".

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During a televised address to his nation Volodymyr Zelenskyy asked the Russian President to sit down with him at the negotiation table in a bid to bring the conflict to an end.

In his appeal Zelenskyy said: "Get off our land. You don't want to leave now? Then sit down with me at the negotiation table.

"I'm available. Sit. Just not 30 metres away like with Macron or Scholz etc. I am your neighbour. You don't need to keep me 30 metres away.

"I don't bite. I'm a normal bloke. Sit down with me and talk. What are you afraid of? We aren't threatening anyone, we're not terrorists, we aren't seizing banks and seizing foreign land."

Earlier, Putin branded Ukrainians 'extreme gangsters', claiming their army is using civilians as 'human shields'.

Putin hailed his soldiers as heroes who are fighting to save innocent lives and said his invasion is going exactly to plan and schedule in a staggering speech which saw accusations of hypocrisy and denial.

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Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky also criticised the West during his appearance, saying the world was too slow to offer support for his embattled country.

He once again implored western leaders to enforce a no-fly zone over Ukraine to deny access to Russian warplanes.

But the UK, US and Nato allies have ruled out the move, which would see western militaries pitted directly against Russian forces.

Mr Zelenskyy said if the West remains reluctant to declare a no-fly zone over Ukraine, it should at least provide Kyiv with fighter jets.

His pleas for a meeting with Putin come after the Russian leader issued chilling words vowing to "seize the whole of Ukraine" warning the "worst is yet to come".

The UN human rights office confirmed its latest count of casualties in Ukraine since Russia's invasion last week has risen to 249 civilians killed and 553 injured.

Some 17 of those killed were children and 27 were women, the latest count found.

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Today, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is set to embark on an "intensive day of diplomacy" in Brussels to "tighten the vice around Putin's war machine" following his "illegal, amoral and barbaric" invasion of Ukraine.

Ms Truss will attend a series of meetings with foreign ministers from Nato, the G7 and EU, where she will seek agreement that the international community must "step up support for Ukraine", the Foreign Office said.

The ministers will also discuss cutting European dependency on Russian oil and gas, with the Foreign Secretary calling on her counterparts to "embrace reliable partners rather than be dependant and beholden on any one country".

Ahead of her trip, the Foreign Secretary said: "It is vital that the UK and our allies maintain a strong and united front against Russian aggression and act as one in support for Ukraine.

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"That's why I'm in Brussels for one of the biggest days of diplomacy - we will work with fellow freedom-loving democracies to tighten the vice around Putin's war machine and signal our strong support for Ukraine's territorial integrity."

Earlier on Thursday, at a press conference in Lithuania, Ms Truss stressed the need to "keep our foot on the gas" with economic measures against Russia.

The Foreign Secretary outlined the steps already taken by the UK, but said "we need to go further" by including all Russian banks in the ban from the Swift payment system and reducing dependency on hydrocarbons from Russia.