Volodymyr, 61, and Nataliia Bolias, 51, walk past an industrial building that received a missile strike, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, during intense shelling on Christmas Day at the frontline in Bakhmut, Ukraine, Dec. 25, 2022. (Reuters)

Volodymyr, 61, and Nataliia Bolias, 51, walk past an industrial building that received a missile strike, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, during intense shelling on Christmas Day at the frontline in Bakhmut, Ukraine, Dec. 25, 2022. (Reuters)

Russia-Ukraine War

Russia says Ukraine can decide to meet its demands or else Russian army will decide

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told state media it is up to the Ukrainian government to determine how long the fighting in Ukraine will go on.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told state media it is up to the Ukrainian government to determine how long the fighting in Ukraine will go on.

Russia launched the conflict with an invasion of its neighbor 10 months ago, and the Tass news agency quoted Lavrov saying Ukraine "can stop senseless resistance at any moment."

Lavrov said Ukraine knows Russia's proposals for "the demilitarization and denazification" of Ukrainian territory and the elimination of threats to Russia from Ukraine, including four areas that Russia has claimed to annex. The international community resoundingly rejected those annexation claims involving Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia.

Lavrov added that if Ukraine does not meet Russia's demands, "the issue will be decided by the Russian army."

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said Russia can stop the war it began at any time by withdrawing its troops and restoring Ukraine's sovereignty, freedom and territorial integrity.

"Neither total mobilization, nor panicky search for ammo, nor secret contracts with Iran, nor Lavrov's threats will help," Zelenskyy aide Mykhailo Podolyak tweeted Tuesday. "Russia needs to face the reality. Ukraine will demilitarize the RF to the end, oust the invaders from all occupied territories."

In his nightly video address Monday, Zelenskyy addressed the difficult situation on the front lines of Bakhmut, Kreminna and other areas in the Donbas region, which as he said, "require maximum strength and concentration."

He said the Russians are using all the resources available to them "to squeeze out at least some advance."

Zelenskyy thanked Ukrainian forces who "hold their positions firmly, stand strong, and who nevertheless find opportunities not only to not lose anything, but also to drive the occupiers out, to 'subtract' them."

Luhansk's Ukrainian governor, Serhiy Haidai, said Russian forces have withdrawn from Kreminna as Ukrainian forces were approaching after months of intense fighting.

Zelenskyy cautioned people that they must be ready for more missile attacks or provocations from Russia.

"Air defense is preparing, the state is preparing, and everyone must prepare. Please pay attention to the sirens," he said.

Zelenskyy said that almost 9 million people remained without electricity in Ukraine.

Earlier Monday, in an interview with The Associated Press, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said his government wants a peace summit within two months at the United Nations with Secretary-General António Guterres as mediator. He added that he doesn't anticipate Russia taking part.

Kuleba said Russia must face a war crimes tribunal before his country engages in direct talks with Moscow. He said, however, that other nations should feel free to engage with the Russians, as happened before to reach a grain agreement between Turkey and Russia.

Kuleba said Ukraine will do whatever it can to win the war in 2023.

"Every war ends in a diplomatic way," he said. "Every war ends as a result of the actions taken on the battlefield and at the negotiating table," he added.

Kuleba also asked Monday for United Nations member states to strip Russia of its seat on the U.N. Security Council, calling its status as a permanent member "illegal."

Ukraine's Foreign Minister said in a statement that the status of Russia as a U.N. member state and a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council "remains unsettled."

"Russia falsely considers the issue settled, referring to the fact that since December 24, 1991, and publicly — since December 31, 1991, a country name plate for the Russian Federation appeared in the UN Security Council. In fact, according to the UN Charter, there has never been legitimate grounds for this," the statement notes.

In a tweet, Kuleba said, "31 years ago Russia abused the UN Charter and usurped USSR's seat at the UN Security Council — bypassing the only legitimate procedure set by the Charter. Russia's presence at the UNSC and the UN as a whole is illegitimate."

Ukraine's Foreign Ministry said the U.N. Charter does not contain the words "Russian Federation." The country did not complete the procedures for acquiring membership as, for example, the Czech Republic and Slovakia did after Czechoslovakia collapsed.

"Therefore, the Russian Federation has never gone through the legal procedure to be admitted to membership and therefore illegally occupies the seat of the USSR in the UN Security Council. From a legal and political point of view, there can be only one conclusion: Russia is a usurper of the Soviet Union's seat in the UN Security Council," the statement says.

When asked about Russia's possible removal from the U.N. Security Council, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield told VOA's Eastern Europe Bureau Chief Myroslava Gongadze, "We do not think that the kinds of actions that Russia is taking in Ukraine are worthy of a country that is a permanent member of the Security Council."

The ambassador said she does not "see that path" of kicking Russia off the Security Council but, she added, "I don't think that we should give up on that possibility if presented the opportunity." (SJ/VOA)

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