A senior Russian diplomat has complained to Turkey about the “aggressive behavior” of Ukraine’s military, as fierce fighting continues on multiple fronts amid freezing winter conditions.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Vershinin spoke to reporters on Monday after meetings with Turkish officials in Istanbul, Russia’s state-run Tass news agency reported. The diplomat criticized Ukraine and the U.S., accusing both of undermining potential peace talks.
“We tried to provide Turkey with detailed information about the real situation on the ground, highlighting the totally aggressive behavior of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and its attacks on civilians in Donbas and other Russian regions,” Vershinin said.
“It was crucial for us to make Turkey understand the situation that Western media outlets keep distorting, unfortunately. False reports have popped up in large numbers.”
Russian forces are still occupying swathes of Ukrainian territory, taken since Moscow’s latest invasion began on February 24. Subsequent Ukrainian counter-offensives have liberated large areas north of Kyiv, around the northeastern city of Kharkiv, and around the southern city of Kherson.
Ukraine has also been striking targets across the border with Russia, including a suspected drone strike—attributed to Kyiv but not officially claimed—on strategic bomber bases used to launch the Kremlin’s devastating infrastructure offensive.
Leaders in Kyiv have set their sights on the liberation of all Ukrainian territory occupied by Russian forces since 2014, including Crimea and parts of the eastern Donbas region.
Russian President Vladimir Putin admitted Friday that a peace deal may be necessary to end the fighting, though showed no signs of downgrading his war goals. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Russia does not see any prospect for negotiations at this time.
Ukrainian leaders and their more Russo-skeptic NATO and European Union backers have warned that Moscow may seek a ceasefire or peace deal only to rearm and reform its military units, preparing them for another future offensive.
Kyiv has said there will be no more negotiations with the Russian side until all occupying troops withdraw to their pre-February 24 positions. In any talks, President Volodymyr Zelensky has said he will demand liberation of all Ukrainian territory, reparations for war damage, war crime prosecutions for Russian leaders, and future binding security guarantees.
Moscow, meanwhile, remains vague on the goals of what it calls its “special military operation.” The Kremlin will want to retain control of the partially-occupied Ukrainian territories it claims to have annexed in Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Luhansk, and Donetsk, and still alludes to regime change via so-called “de-Nazification” and demilitarization of the country.
Ukraine’s counter-offensives in the south around Kherson and northeast on the borders of Kharkiv and Luhansk oblasts have slowed in recent weeks, partially due to difficult weather conditions. Ukrainian leaders have said they intend to keep momentum through the winter.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian defenders are locked in the brutal battle for the eastern city of Bakhmut, which Russian forces have been trying to seize for several months at high cost. The Russian push on the Bakhmut area, spearhead by the mercenary Wagner Group, has made it the hottest portion of the front.
Peace talks began immediately after the invasion, but have always been hamstrung by mistrust, espionage, and the chasm between the demands of both sides.
Vershinin blamed Kyiv for the failure. “You must remember how it all ended, it ended with Ukraine demonstrating aggressive and unconstructive behavior,” he said. “We, on the contrary, made statements, expressing readiness to hold discussions based on the goals that had been announced during the special military operation.”
Russian diplomats also met with U.S. counterparts in Istanbul on Friday, Reuters reported. Vershinin said that “any contacts are useful, but, unfortunately, we do not see a constructive approach from the American side aimed at concrete results.”