MOSCOW, Nov 11 (Reuters) – The Kremlin said on Friday that Russian forces’ withdrawal from Kherson would not change the status of the region, which Moscow has proclaimed part of Russia after moving to annex it from Ukraine.
Russia claimed Kherson and three other Ukrainian regions after holding what it called referendums in September – votes that were denounced by Kyiv and Western governments as illegal and coercive. But on Wednesday, in a major retreat, it announced its forces would pull out of Kherson city in the face of a major Ukrainian counter-offensive.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters the region’s status was “fixed” and that no changes were possible.
“It is a subject of the Russian Federation – it is legally fixed and defined. There are no changes and there can be no changes,” Peskov said.
He said Russia did not regret announcing the annexation of Kherson and the other three regions in a triumphal ceremony in Moscow on Sept. 30.
In the Kremlin’s first public comments since Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu announced Russian forces would withdraw from Kherson city to the opposite side of the River Dnipro, Peskov said it was a decision taken by the defence ministry and he had “nothing to add.”
He said Russia remained committed to achieving the goals of what it calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine.
The conflict “can only be ended after its goals have been achieved – or by achieving those goals through peace negotiations,” Peskov said.
“However, due to the position taken by the Ukrainian side, peace talks are impossible,” he added.
There have been no public attempts to reconvene peace talks between the two sides since early initiatives at a ceasefire in Istanbul during the first weeks of the conflict broke down without progress.
Following the annexations, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy signed a decree on Oct. 4 formally declaring the prospect of any Ukrainian talks with Kremlin leader Vladimir Putin “impossible”, but leaving the door open to talks with Russia.