US calls for Ukraine to liberate all its citizens, as chances of peace talks diminish

Prospects for peace talks between Kyiv and Moscow appear to have receded after Russia pulled out of the southern Russian city of Kherson, with a top US official on Saturday calling on Ukraine to “liberate” all its citizens from Russian “barbarism”.

Some, like General Mark Milley, thought Russia’s withdrawal from the city it had occupied for eight months could be the tactical advantage Ukraine needed to begin negotiations to end the war.

Russia signaled this week that it was open to talks, despite Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky saying he would only engage in peace talks with Russia until Russia returned all occupied land, paid reparations for war damages and prosecuted for its war crimes.

With Russia withdrawing from Kherson, Russia and Ukraine have an opportunity to hold peace talks

Michael Carpenter, the US ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, supported Zelensky’s long-standing position and pointed to new atrocities in Kherson.

“As Ukrainian forces liberate Kherson, they discover evidence of torture and other heinous crimes committed by Russia’s occupation forces,” he said in a statement on Twitter. “Ukraine must liberate all its citizens from this barbarism.”

UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace echoed the sentiment and highlighted the concern expressed by some defense experts who have warned that Russia’s withdrawal from Kherson could be a ploy.

“While the withdrawal is welcome, no one is going to underestimate the threat posed by the Russian Federation,” he said in a statement on Saturday.

Russia’s withdrawal from the southern city, two months after its forces were pulled out of Kharkiv, was “another strategic defeat for them,” Wallace said.

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“With now [Kherson] If surrendered, the common people of Russia would surely ask, ‘What is this for?’ “The Russian military has suffered a huge loss of life as a result of their illegal invasion and only achieved international isolation. Shame on you. Ukraine will press on.”

Ukrainians gather in central Kyiv to celebrate the recapture of the Ukrainian city of Kherson on Friday, November 11, 2022.

Ukrainians gather in central Kyiv to celebrate the recapture of the Ukrainian city of Kherson on Friday, November 11, 2022.
(AP Photo/Bernard Armangu)

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Milley said earlier this week that the United States estimates that 100,000 Russian soldiers have been killed or wounded in the fighting since the February 24 invasion.

Another 40,000 Ukrainian civilians are believed to have been killed, Milli added.

“The greatest suffering, human suffering,” he said.

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Russian troops retreated to the eastern bank of the Dnieper River along the eastern bank of the city of Kherson.

People drink sparkling wine, wave flags and sing songs as they celebrate the liberation of part of the city of Kherson at Freedom Square, in Kyiv, Ukraine, on November 12, 2022.

People drink sparkling wine, wave flags and sing songs as they celebrate the liberation of part of the city of Kherson at Freedom Square, in Kyiv, Ukraine, on November 12, 2022.
(Ed Ram/Getty Images)

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Ukrainian troops continue to advance in the Kherson region, and it is unclear whether Russia plans to pull out more troops in an effort to avoid the losses of personnel and military equipment seen in Kharkiv in September.

Milli estimated there were 20,000-30,000 Russian soldiers in the Kherson area, and said it could take weeks for that number of troops to retreat.

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