Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Tuesday a “real and complete cessation of hostilities” will result if Russia withdraws all of its troops from Ukraine and restores Ukrainian control to his country’s territory along the border with Russia.
Speaking virtually to a summit of leaders from the Group of 20 nations in Bali, Zelenskyy said delays in bringing an end to the conflict mean the deaths of more Ukrainians and more threats to the world.
“I am convinced now is the time when the Russian destructive war must and can be stopped,” Zelenskyy said.
The Ukrainian leader’s comments followed his visit Monday to the newly liberated city of Kherson where he told Ukrainian troops that the country is “ready for peace.”
Zelenskyy’s appearance in Kherson came just days after Russian troops retreated from the southeastern city, one of the war’s biggest losses for Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose troops had controlled the regional capital since near the start of the war in February.
U.S. President Joe Biden, speaking Monday at a news conference in Indonesia, called the Ukrainian takeover of Kherson “a significant victory” for the government in Kyiv.
“I can do nothing but applaud the courage, determination and capacity of the Ukrainian people and Ukrainian military,” Biden said. “They have been amazing.”
But he said the Western allies supporting Ukraine would not force a settlement on Ukraine to end the war. He said there would be “nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine” agreeing to it.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined Monday to comment on Zelenskyy’s visit to Kherson but said, “this territory is part of the Russian Federation.”
Russia illegally annexed the region last month along with three other territories in Ukraine.
Zelenskyy’s visit came as the heads of U.S. and Russian intelligence met Monday in Turkey in the highest level of face-to-face talks acknowledged between the two countries since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
A White House official said CIA Director Bill Burns met with Russian intelligence chief Sergei Naryshkin to warn of consequences if Russia were to deploy a nuclear weapon in Ukraine.
The official, who spoke to reporters on the condition of anonymity, said the talks did not involve any discussion about a settlement to the war.
Russia confirmed the meeting took place but declined to give details about it.
In other developments Monday, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution calling for Russia to be responsible for providing reparations to Ukraine. The vote was 94-14 with 73 abstentions.
While the measure passed, it garnered less support than an October resolution condemning Russia’s “attempted illegal annexation” of four Ukrainian regions. That measure passed 143-5 with 35 abstentions.
At The Hague, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters Russia’s military capability should not be underestimated, despite Ukraine’s recent successes.
“The coming months will be difficult. Putin’s aim is to leave Ukraine cold and dark this winter. So, we must stay the course,” he said during a joint news conference with Dutch government officials.
A senior U.S. military official told reporters Monday on the condition of anonymity that the Russian forces who were in Kherson have withdrawn to the eastern side of the Dnipro River and are strengthening their defensive lines there.
“It is our assessment right now that their intent would be to try to hold on to that territory,” the official said.
The official said Ukraine’s takeover of Kherson is “very significant” strategically, but “since the Russians don’t appear inclined to depart the rest of occupied Ukraine, there’s undoubtedly still tough fighting ahead.”
Despite withdrawing from the city of Kherson, Russia still controls about 70% of the wider Kherson region, The Associated Press reported.
The British defense ministry said Tuesday that after leaving Kherson, the Russian military has made the Azov Sea port of Henichesk a temporary capital of the occupied region and will likely redeploy military command units there.
Some information in this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.