President Vladimir Putin said on December 19 that if the United States and Europe are willing to discuss Ukraine’s future, Russia is also ready to discuss it. But Russia will protect its national interests, Putin said. Putin, who sent troops into Ukraine in 2022, has often said he is ready for peace talks, but Western officials say that he is waiting for the US presidential election next November before making any real moves.

“If the Ukrainians who are hostile to Russia and officials from Europe and the United States are willing to negotiate, we will allow them to negotiate. But they will negotiate based on their national interests,” Putin said during a meeting with the leadership of the Ministry of Defense in Moscow. He added that Russia does not intend to go to war with Europe.

When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Russia controlled about 17.5 percent of the territory that was internationally recognized as part of Ukraine’s territory. Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula in 2014 and last year declared four more Ukrainian territories as Russian territories. Ukraine has said that it will attack the Russian soldiers until they can drive them out of their territory.

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