Moscow criticizes West for prolonging Ukraine conflict

A man walks in front of a tower of the Kremlin and the Russian Foreign Ministry building in central Moscow on September 10, 2020. (YURI KADOBNOV / AFP)

KYIV / BUDAPEST / MOSCOW – While Western countries are calling for an early cessation of hostilities in Ukraine, "they are doing everything to prevent this" with their actions, a Russian diplomat said Friday.

Arms deliveries to Ukraine are increasing and the United States alone has sent $3.8 billion worth of military products, Alexei Zaitsev, deputy director of the Information and Press Department of the Russian Foreign Ministry, said at a briefing.

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Military supplies from Western countries will prolong hostilities, cause new destruction of civilian infrastructure, and cost more civilian lives, he said.

Against this backdrop, the Russia-Ukraine peace talks are "in a state of stagnation," Zaitsev said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said his country stands ready to resume talks on settling the conflict with Russia after Russian forces return to the positions they held before Feb 24, the Ukrinform news agency reported

Meanwhile, the diplomat denied the allegation that Russia could use nuclear weapons during its special military operation in Ukraine, calling such speculation "a deliberate lie."

Russia firmly adheres to the principle that "there can be no winners in a nuclear war, and it should not be unleashed," Zaytsev noted.  

Ukraine urges Russia's troop pullback to resume talks

On Friday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said his country stands ready to resume talks on settling the conflict with Russia after Russian forces return to the positions they held before Feb 24, the Ukrinform news agency reported.

"They need to withdraw to those temporary contact lines or dividing lines – they must withdraw troops there. Then we can start the full-scale talks," Zelensky was quoted as saying.

He emphasized that "not all the bridges" for peace talks with Russia have been destroyed.

The Ukrainian and Russian delegations held their latest round of in-person peace negotiations in Istanbul, Turkey in late March.  

Ukraine evacuates 500 civilians from Mariupol

Ukraine has evacuated about 500 civilians from the city of Mariupol, head of the President's Office, Andriy Yermak said on Friday.

"We carried out the next stage of a complex operation to evacuate people from Mariupol and Azovstal. I can say that we managed to take out almost 500 civilians," Yermak said on Telegram.

He thanked the United Nations for its assistance in the evacuation efforts.

The evacuation from Mariupol was the centerpiece of talks between Zelensky and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres last month.  

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban gives his first international press conference after his FIDESZ party won the parliamentary election, in the Karmelita monastery housing the prime minister's office in Budapest on April 6, 2022. (ATTILA KISBENEDEK / AFP)

EU's oil embargo against Russia ‘nuclear bomb’

The European Commission's planned oil embargo against Russia can be considered as a "nuclear bomb" on Hungary's economy, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said Friday.

If adopted, the embargo will mean the end of utility price caps, while fuel prices could reach 700 to 800 forints ($1.94-2.22) per liter, Orban told local public radio MR1.

Household utility prices were fixed in Hungary to their 2014 level, while last year the Orban government put a limit on prices of petrol and diesel per liter at 480 forints.

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European Union leaders have previously agreed that only such steps should be taken that take into account the member states' differing energy structures and their sovereign right to determine their energy mix, but the president of the EC has challenged the great difficulty of creating European unity, according to Orban.

The transformation of the Hungarian energy system would take years and thousands of billions of forints in order to replace Russian oil, Orban recalled.

"The introduction of sanctions is not a good solution, but Hungary's veto on the most important issues from our point of view must be maintained," he stressed.

Orban said he had been willing to approve the first five packages of sanctions but made it clear that the energy embargo would be a red line.

The EU will phase out Russian crude oil within six months and refined products by the end of the year, according to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who announced the sixth package of sanctions against Russia.