Amid a flurry of talk about potential negotiations and with Russian troops continuing to bear down on Kyiv, Vladimir Putin made one thing clear on Friday: he won’t stop until Ukraine surrenders.
That, Putin suggested, would include the end of Ukraine’s current government, which he described as a “band of drug addicts and neo-Nazis who have holed up in Kyiv and taken the entire Ukrainian people hostage.”
The remarks came after President Zelensky appealed to Putin to “end the death of people,” saying that he was prepared to discuss Ukraine becoming a neutral state.
In his remarks hours later, Putin asked the Ukrainian military to overthrow Zelensky, again referring to the Jewish president as a “neo-Nazi.”
“Don’t let neo-Nazis and Banderovites use your children, wives, and elderly as human shields — take power into your hands,” Putin said, referring to Stepan Bandera, a 1940s Ukrainian insurgent leader who sided with the Nazis during World War II. “It seems that it would then be easier for us to negotiate with you, then with this band of drug addicts and neo-Nazis who have holed up in Kyiv and taken the entire Ukrainian people hostage.”
As Putin made his remarks, Ukraine’s territorial defense forces prepared to defend Kyiv.
Videos from the Ukrainian capitol showed trucks unloading automatic weapons. One video shared by Ukrainian politicians showed people in the Kyiv region making homemade molotov cocktails, while a photo posted by the Kyiv Independent’s Illia Ponomarenko showed bottles of wine and Jim Beam turned into the improvised explosive.
Another member of parliament posted a picture of his newlywed daughter and her husband holding kalashnikovs.
Apart from Putin’s remarks, Russia has so far kept everything except the terms it wants from Ukraine ambiguous.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov appeared to make a feint toward diplomacy Friday, telling reporters that Russia was ready for negotiations with Zelensky in Minsk — the capital of Belarus, from where Russia launched its assault on Kyiv.
Peskov specified that the talks would have to include the “denazification and demilitarization” of Ukraine — a war goal that many have interpreted to mean Zelensky’s removal and Russian military victory.
But Peskov changed it up within an hour. After Putin delivered his remarks, Peskov claimed that Ukraine had proposed Warsaw as a site for talks, instead of Minsk, before falling out of contact.