Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelenskyy said “true peace” could only be achieved with the “total destruction of Russian aggression”.
Russia is seeking a “short-term truce” – a proposal that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky strongly opposes because it would allow Moscow’s army to regain strength after suffering a series of battlefield defeats.
Russian officials have repeatedly said they are ready for peace talks without preconditions, but it was unclear whether they had proposed a formal ceasefire, as Zelensky mentioned on Friday.
“Russia is now looking for a brief truce, a respite to regain strength. Some may call this the end of the war, but such a respite will only worsen the situation,” the Ukrainian leader said.
“A truly real, lasting and honest peace can only result from the total destruction of Russian aggression.”
The United States said only Zelensky could decide when to start peace talks with Russia, denying that it was pressuring Kyiv to negotiate an end to the nearly nine-month war sparked by Moscow’s invasion.
The top U.S. military officer, General Mark Milley, said this week that while Ukraine had scored key battlefield victories, Moscow still controlled 20 percent of the country’s territory and that troops in Kyiv were unlikely to drive the Russians out anytime soon.
Last week, Ukraine regained control of the strategically important southern city of Kherson. It has been occupied by Russian troops since the war began in late February.
Kherson marks the third major counteroffensive after Ukrainian forces repelled Russian forces near Kyiv in April and recaptured swathes of territory in the northeast in September.
“Investigators have documented more than 400 Russian war crimes in Kherson,” Zelensky said on Monday.
The Conflict Observatory, a war crimes research group affiliated with the Yale School of Public Health, said it had documented 226 incidents of extrajudicial detention and enforced disappearances in southern cities. About a quarter of them were allegedly tortured and four died in custody.
The Conflict Observatory said in a report on Friday that most of the detentions and disappearances were carried out by the Russian military and FSB security agencies, with half of them “not appearing to have been released”.
Military-age soldiers — including civil servants, civil society leaders, teachers, law enforcement officers, and journalists — make up a large proportion of those detained and missing.
“These findings reveal a range of shocking allegations about the treatment of detainees, including allegations of deaths in custody; the widespread use of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment… [and] sexual and gender-based violence,” the report said.
It cited sources as saying that after taking Kherson in March, the Russians arrived with lists and license plate numbers, targeting people they believed might boycott them.
Crimean Tatars have also been targeted, with many accused of belonging to a group Russia calls Tatar “terrorists”.
The Conflict Observatory said that while some detainees had been released, “many others remain detained or missing, their fate unknown to their families” since Russian troops withdrew from the city of Kherson.