Putin tells Scholz that Kyiv is stalling peace talks with Moscow

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Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with the head of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs Alexander Shokhin in Moscow, Russia March 2, 2022. Sputnik/Mikhail Klimentyev/Kremlin via REUTERS

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March 18 (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin told German Chancellor Olaf Scholz during a phone call on Friday that Kyiv was attempting to stall peace talks with Russia but that Moscow was still keen to continue negotiations.

"It was noted that the Kyiv regime is attempting in every possible way to delay the negotiation process, putting forward more and more unrealistic proposals," the Kremlin said in a readout of the call.

"Nonetheless the Russian side is ready to continue searching for a solution in line with its well-known principled approaches."

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Western officials said on Thursday that Ukraine and Russia were taking peace talks seriously but that a big gap remained between the two sides.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, who said Putin's call with Scholz had been harsh but business-like, told reporters on a conference call that the Russian delegation was "demonstrating its readiness to work much faster than is being done now".

"Unfortunately the Ukrainian delegation is not ready to step up the pace of negotiations. But the (negotiation) process continues nonetheless."

Moscow has previously said it was close to agreeing a formula that would keep Ukraine neutral, one of its key demands.

Ukraine has said it is willing to negotiate but will not surrender or accept Russian ultimatums. It is sticking to its position that it retains sovereignty over areas seized by Russia and Russian-backed forces since 2014.

Russia sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24 in what it called a special operation to degrade its southern neighbour’s military capabilities and root out people it called dangerous nationalists.

Ukrainian forces have mounted stiff resistance and the West has imposed sweeping sanctions on Russia in an effort to force it to withdraw its forces.

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Reporting by Reuters; Editing by Nick Macfie

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