4.6 million refugees fled Ukraine

In his first detailed comments on Russia’s war in Ukraine since last month, Russian President Vladimir Putin said peace talks were at an impasse and promised his forces would continue to fight until they finished the job.

Mr Putin said the talks stalled after what he called fake and provocative in Bucha, the town outside Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, where Ukrainian officials reported the discovery of several hundred civilians died this month after the withdrawal of Russian troops.

Speaking during a visit to a Russian spaceport on Tuesday with his Belarusian counterpart, Alexander Lukashenko, Putin said Ukrainian negotiators had drifted away from agreements reached in Istanbul. Kyiv has offered neutral status and international security guarantees, but the parties have not moved closer to a ceasefire.

“We have again returned to a no-win situation,” Putin said. “The inconsistency on key issues has created well-known difficulties in reaching final agreements on the path of negotiations that would be acceptable to us. Unless that happens, the military operation will continue until it ends and that the objectives set at the beginning of this operation are achieved.

Russia suffered at least 7,000 troop deaths, according to an estimate by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and was pushed back by Ukrainian troops from cities it had tried to capture, including kyiv. Russia has admitted 1,351 dead among its troops.

But Mr Putin defended his decision to send forces to Ukraine on February 24, describing it as necessary to anticipate an attack on Russia. He did not provide evidence of a possible imminent assault.

“Obviously we had no other choice; it’s the right decision,” he said.

Russia has refocused its objectives on the eastern region of Donbass in Ukraine. Mr. Putin said that the main goal of the offensive was to help the people of Donbass and there is no doubt that the goal would be achieved. He said the campaign “will take some planning.”

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