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Putin mocks planned Ukraine conference and says Russia won’t accept any enforced peace plans

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia’s President Vladimir Putin on Thursday mocked a scheduled round of Ukraine peace talks in Switzerland, warning that Moscow will not accept any enforced plans that ignore its interests.

Switzerland’s government said Wednesday it will host a high-level international conference in June to help chart a path toward peace in Ukraine after more than two years of fighting, and expressed hope that Russia might join in the peace process someday.

Putin charged that Russia hadn’t been invited to join June’s talks, while pointing at Swiss recognition that a peace process can’t happen without Russia.

“They aren’t inviting us there,” Putin said. “Moreover, they think there is nothing for us to do there, but at the same time they say that’s it’s impossible to decide anything without us. It would have been funny if it weren’t so sad.”

Russia has dismissed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s peace formula requiring Moscow to pull back its troops, pay compensation to Ukraine and face an international tribunal for its action.

Speaking during Thursday’s meeting with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko in Moscow, Putin said that Russia is open for negotiations, but will never accept “any schemes that have nothing to do with reality.”

Putin has repeatedly said that he sent troops into Ukraine in February 2022 to protect Russian interests and prevent Ukraine from posing a major security threat to Russia by joining NATO. Kyiv and its allies have denounced Russia’s military campaign as an unprovoked act of aggression.

Putin has claimed that Russian forces have the upper hand after the failure of Ukraine’s counteroffensive last year, arguing that Ukraine and the West will “sooner or later” have to accept a settlement on Moscow’s terms.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned last week that prospective negotiations to end the fighting in Ukraine could be successful only if they take Moscow’s interests into account, dismissing a planned round of peace talks as a Western ruse to rally broader international support for Kyiv.