Russia does not plan to "occupy" Ukraine and is ready to hold negotiations soon after the Ukrainian forces "lay down their arms" in response to Russian President Vladimir Putin's call, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday.
The Russian top diplomat made the remarks following talks with Deputy Foreign Minister of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) Sergey Peresada and Foreign Minister of the Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR) Vladislav Deinego, the state-run TASS news agency reported.
"No one is going to occupy Ukraine. The aim of the operation has been openly declared: demilitarising and denazifying,” he said, a day after Russian troops launched a massive military operation against Ukraine.
President Putin signed treaties with leaders of DPR and LPR on February 21, recognising the two regions of Ukraine as an independent.
“We are ready to hold talks at any moment, once the Ukrainian Armed Forces respond to our president’s call, end their resistance and lay down their arms. No one plans to attack and oppress them, let them return to their families, and let us give the Ukrainian people a chance to decide their future,” Lavrov said.
No one will abuse the Ukrainian soldiers, who can return to their families after ending hostilities, he told reporters.
Meanwhile, the Kremlin on Friday said that President Putin is ready to send a delegation to Minsk, Belarus for talks with Ukrainian officials.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov's comments came soon after Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that he is willing to discuss a non-aligned status for Ukraine.
Zelenskyy's statement indicated that he would be willing to negotiate dropping his country's bid to join US-led NATO, a key demand of Putin.
Before the Russian military action, the US-led West had firmly rejected Moscow's demand. Putin on Thursday had claimed the refusal to discuss keeping Ukraine out of NATO forced him to order the special military operation against Ukraine to "demilitarise" it.
President Putin on Thursday launched a multi-pronged all-out attack on Ukraine, and warned other countries that any attempt to interfere would lead to "consequences they had never seen".
The US and its allies have decided to block assets of four large Russian banks, impose export controls and sanction oligarchs close to Putin after he ordered a "special military operation" against Ukraine.
Watch the latest DH Videos here: