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Putin said civilians can exit Azovstal, this is no negotiations matter — Kremlin spokesman

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EDITOR'S CHOICE

Kremlin sees no negotiations matter in the situation around the Azovstal plant in Mariupol, Russian President Vladimir Putin said it already that civilians can exit the plant freely, while militants must lay down their arms, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Thursday. He made this comment in response to Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky’s remark that Kiev is ready for immediate negotiations on evacuation of people from Azovstal.

“The president made it quite clear: civilians can exit and go anywhere they please. Militants must lay down their arms and exit as well. Their lives will be preserved. All injured and sick will be provided with medical aid,” Peskov said. “What’s there to negotiate about in this case?”

Zelensky stated Kiev’s readiness for negotiations on evacuation of people from Azovstal Thursday after the talks with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

On Tuesday, Guterres held negotiations with Putin in Moscow. During the open part of the meeting, the Russian president state that all civilians, if they are really present at Azovstal, are free to exit the plan, and Ukrainian servicemen must let them go. The President noted that Russian humanitarian corridors from Mariupol are active, and about 130,000-140,000 people have already used them, and are free to go wherever they please – either to Russia or to Ukraine. According to Putin, if civilians are indeed present at Azovstal, then holding them as human shields is a war crime by Ukrainian nationalist battalions.

Putin also stated that those Ukrainian servicemen who already laid down their weapons are held in appropriate conditions and receive medical aid, if necessary. He stated that Russia is ready to provide UN and the International Red Cross with access to these prisoners of war.

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