Ukrainians will be offered a referendum on any “compromises” with Russia if a peace deal is agreed, Volodymyr Zelenskyy said yesterday after insisting his country would be destroyed rather than bow to Moscow’s ultimatums.
The Kremlin, meanwhile, dashed hopes of an early deal to end the war when the US warned that Russia was trying to bomb cities into submission and thereby destroy Ukrainian morale.
“If you talk about certain changes, possibly historical changes… there will be a referendum,” Mr Zelensky said in an interview with European broadcasters, without specifying how such a vote would be held.
“Our people will have a say and respond to compromise formats,” he said.
Moscow said the war would end if Kyiv gave up hopes of joining NATO and recognized Crimea and Ukraine’s separatist republics as Russian territory.
“Ukraine cannot fulfill Russian ultimatums,” Zelenskyy said a day after Moscow told authorities in the strategic port city of Mariupol that they must surrender or face a military tribunal.
“We should be destroyed first, then their ultimatum would be fulfilled,” he added.
He said Moscow wants Ukraine to “hand over” Mariupol, the capital Kyiv and the second largest city Kharkiv.
Neither the people of those cities nor he “as President can do this,” he said.
Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, yesterday ruled out a meeting between the Russian president and his Ukrainian counterpart until Kyiv “does its homework on the negotiations and agrees on their outcomes.”
He also claimed that any ceasefire would be abused by the Ukrainian military to allow them to regroup.
“It would be used to continue attacks on the Russian military,” he said.
Since the beginning of the war, officials from Russia and Ukraine have met in Belarus several times.
However, Mr Peskov said there had been “no substantive movement” despite recent reports that the countries were moving towards an agreement.
The standoff came when Russia’s defense ministry inadvertently revealed that nearly 10,000 of its soldiers were killed in Ukraine.
The number was included in a March 20 pro-Kremlin report Komsomolskaya Pravda Newspaper, which has since been deleted from the newspaper’s website.
Before it was removed, the article quoted the Russian Defense Ministry as saying that 9,861 Russian soldiers had been killed and 16,153 injured in more than three weeks of fighting.
Previously, the Russian military had only admitted that around 500 soldiers had been killed.
The article was removed from the newspaper’s website and replaced with a version without casualty figures.
The apparent new numbers are similar to a conservative estimate by US intelligence last week that at least 7,000 Russian soldiers had died and up to 21,000 injured as of that date.
When the apparent extent of Russian casualties became known, the State Department said it had summoned US Ambassador John Sullivan.
Moscow said it had told Mr Sullivan that Joe Biden, who called Vladimir Putin a “war criminal”, had brought bilateral ties to the brink of collapse.
A spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry said: “[Statements] of the American President, unworthy of a statesman of such high rank, brought Russian-American relations to the brink of collapse.”
The US State Department did not confirm that the ambassador had been subpoenaed. (©Telegraph Media Group Ltd)
Telegraph Media Group Limited 
https://www.independent.ie/world-news/europe/volodymr-zelensky-insists-ukraine-would-rather-face-annihilation-than-agree-to-give-up-key-cities-41472840.html Volodymyr Zelenskyy insists that Ukraine would rather face annihilation than agree to abandon key cities