Russia, Ukraine express optimism that diplomatic end to invasion can be reached

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March 13 (UPI) — Officials in Russia and Ukraine expressed optimism that a diplomatic end to the invasion can be reached even as Russian forces battered Ukraine with airstrikes on Sunday.

Mykhailo Podoliak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, said in a video message posted to Twitter that he thinks Ukraine will “achieve concrete results” from talks with Russia in coming days.

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“At the negotiations, [Russia is] not putting ultimatums but carefully listens to our proposals. Ukraine will not give up any of the positions,” Podoliak said.

“Our demands are the end of the war and the withdrawal of Russian Federation troops. I see the understanding and there is a dialogue.”

In another message, Podoliak said Saturday that negotiations with Russia remain ongoing now “in a continuous video format” with special working subgroups created to reach a diplomatic solution to end the invasion.

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Leonid Slutsky, the head of the State Duma Committee on International Affairs and a member of the Russian delegation for peace talks with Ukraine, told Russian state-owned broadcaster RT on Sunday that there had been “significant progress” in negotiations with Ukraine.

“If we compare the positions of both delegations at the talks at the very beginning and today, we will see significant progress,” Slutsky said.

“According to my personal expectations, this progress can develop in the very next few days into a unified position of both delegations, into documents for signing.”

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby also outlined in comments to ABC News that communication between the United States and Russia has helped to prevent the war in Ukraine from escalating.

“We have a deconfliction mechanism set up so that we can talk to the Russian Ministry of Defense,” Kirby said. “That system is working that line is working and we will absolutely not hesitate to use it if we need to.”

Emily Horne, the spokesperson for the National Security Council, said in a statement that National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and senior members of the State Department will travel to Rome on Monday to “to maintain open lines of communication” between China and the United States.

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“The two sides will discuss ongoing efforts to manage the competition between our two countries and discuss the impact of Russia’s war against Ukraine on regional and global security,” Horne said.

“Sullivan will also meet with Luigi Mattiolo, Diplomatic Advisor to the Italian Prime Minister, to continue coordinating a strong, united international response to President Putin’s war of choice.”

The diplomatic advances come after German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday for more than an hour to call for a cease-fire in Ukraine and a diplomatic end to the invasion.

The call was revealed by German spokesman Steffen Hebestreit in a rare readout detailing the interaction of Scholz with other world leaders.

“During the 75-minute conversation, the chancellor and the French president urged an immediate cease-fire in Ukraine and a diplomatic solution to the conflict. It was agreed not to disclose any further content of the conversation,” Hebestreit said in the statement.

The Kremlin confirmed the call in a statement and indicated that Scholz and Macron had raised concerns about the humanitarian crisis in the country amid the invasion.