Liz Truss warns Putin may be using peace talks as 'smokescreen'

Liz Truss warns Vladimir Putin may be using peace talks as a ‘smokescreen’ to allow Russian troops to regroup for a fresh offensive on Ukraine

  • Liz Truss said she was concerned that peace talks were being used for Russia to regroup 
  • Lieutenant General Sir Jim Hockenhull said Kremlin has been forced to switch tactics, turning to the ‘reckless and indiscriminate’ use of firepower
  • Comes after Russian forces shelled a theatre in Mariupol, killing hundreds
  • Theatre was being used as shelter by hundreds of Ukrainian women and children 

The Foreign Secretary has warned Vladimir Putin may be using peace talks between Ukraine and Russia as a ‘smokescreen’ for the Kremlin to regroup troops for a fresh offensive. 

Liz Truss said it was up to President Volodymyr Zelensky  how his country approached peace talks.   

However in an interview with The Times she said she feared that the negotiations- which have been said to have made some progress- were a ‘smokescreen.’  

The Foreign Secretary has warned peace talks between Ukraine and Russia might be being used as a ‘smokescreen’ for the Kremlin to regroup troops for a fresh offensive

Liz Truss said it was up to president Volodymyr Zelensky how his country approached peace talks. However in an interview with The Times she said she feared that the negotiations- which have been said to have made some progress- were a ‘smokescreen’

Yesterday Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the Scottish Conservative conference in Aberdeen that he had pledged to send more defensive weapons to Ukraine after speaking to Mr Zelensky.   

Mr Johnson said that he was ‘more convinced than ever’ that Russian president Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine would fail.   

The Prime Minister will address the Conservative Spring Forum in Blackpool on Saturday where he will likely discuss the conflict in Ukraine again.

Yesterday Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the Scottish Conservative conference in Aberdeen that he had pledged to send more defensive weapons to Ukraine after speaking to Mr Zelensky

Mr Johnson said that he was ‘more convinced than ever’ that Russian president Vladimir Putin’s military venture would fail

Britain’s chief of defence intelligence said Mr Putin was now fighting a ‘war of attrition’, after initial expectations of a quick conflict were dashed.  

Lieutenant General Sir Jim Hockenhull said the Kremlin has been forced to switch tactics, turning to the ‘reckless and indiscriminate’ use of firepower.

He said that these different tactics will inevitably lead to more civilian casualties. 

His words come after hundreds more Ukrainian civilians are feared dead following an attack on a theatre in Mariupol which was sheltering large numbers of women and children.   

Lieutenant General Sir Jim Hockenhull (pictured) said the Kremlin has been forced to switch tactics, turning to the ‘reckless and indiscriminate’ use of firepower which will inevitably lead to more civilian casualties

Rescue workers are trying to free people from the rubble of the bombed building while feared Chechen forces are fighting house to house in Mariupol.  

Video said to have been released by pro-Putin Chechen warlord Ramzan Kadyrov shows heavily armed fighters from the region pounding a high-rise building in the bombed-out city during a fierce gunfight with Ukrainian soldiers.

And survivors who managed to flee Mariupol told of people being left to bleed to death in the streets due to a lack of medics. 

The situation has left people struggling to find food, with no water or electricity. 

His words come after hundreds more Ukrainian civilians are feared dead following an attack on a theatre (pictured) in Mariupol which was sheltering large numbers of women and children

Rescue workers are trying to free people from the rubble of the bombed building while feared Chechen forces are fighting house to house in Mariupol. Pictured:  destroyed block of flats in Mariupol 

Svitlana Zlenko, who said she left the city with her son on Tuesday this week, described how she spent days sheltering in a school building – melting snow to cook pasta to eat while living in constant terror of Russian bombs which flew overhead ‘every day and every night’.

She described how a bomb hit the school last week, wounding a woman in the hip with a piece of shrapnel. ‘She was lying on the first floor of the high school all night and prayed for poison so that she would not feel pain,’ Svitlana said. ‘[She] was taken by the Red Cross within a day, I pray to God she is well.’

She added: ‘There is no food, no medicine, if there is no snow with such urban fights, people will not be able to go out to get water, people have no water left. Pharmacies, grocery stores – everything is robbed or burned.

‘The dead are not taken out. Police recommend to the relatives of those who died of a natural death, to open the windows and lay the bodies on the balcony. I know you think you understand, but you will never understand unless you were there. I pray that this will not happen again in any of the cities of Ukraine, or of the world.’

Video said to have been released by pro-Putin Chechen warlord Ramzan Kadyrov shows heavily armed fighters from the region pounding a high-rise building in the bombed-out city during a fierce gunfight with Ukrainian soldiers. Pictured: Damaged buildings in Mariupol 

Svitlana Zlenko, who said she left the city with her son on Tuesday this week, described how she spent days sheltering in a school building – melting snow to cook pasta to eat while living in constant terror of Russian bombs which flew overhead ‘every day and every night’. Pictured: The destroyed Mariupol theatre 

Despite the pleas, shelling continued in other Ukrainian cities yesterday- with Lviv, in the west of the country, the capital Kyiv, and Kharkiv, in the east, coming under fire.

Ms Truss told the Times that if Moscow was serious about peace talks being held with Ukraine, they would not be using such methods. 

She said: ‘If a country is serious about negotiations, it doesn’t indiscriminately bomb civilians that day.’

The Foreign Secretary added that she was ‘very sceptical’ about the talks between the two countries.

She added: ‘What we’ve seen is an attempt to create space for the Russians to regroup.’  

Despite the pleas, shelling was well underway in other Ukrainian cities on Friday – with Lviv, in the west of the country, the capital Kyiv, and Kharkiv, in the east, coming under fire. Pictured: Several buildings are destroyed by fragments of a Russian missile in Kyiv, Ukraine

Ms Truss also said: ‘We don’t see any serious withdrawal of Russian troops or any serious proposals on the table.’

In the interview with the Times she said that the Russians had ‘lied and lied and lied’ and that she was concerned the negotiations were another attempt to create a diversion and smokescreen.  

However she said that as a sovereign nation Ukraine is fully entitled to undertake any negotiation process it sees fit.  

Officials in the West had warned that Russian forces have large stocks of artillery ammunition and could maintain their bombardment of Ukraine for weeks.   

Officials in the West had warned that Russian forces have large stocks of artillery ammunition and could maintain their bombardment of Ukraine for weeks. Pictured: A service member of pro-Russian troops in uniform without insignia is seen atop of a tank during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the besieged southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine

But General Hockenhull said that more than three weeks into the war, the Kremlin has not achieved any of its initial objectives.   

He told journalists: ‘It has been surprised by the scale and ferocity of Ukrainian resistance and has been bedevilled by problems of its own making,’ 

‘Russian operations have changed. Russia is now pursuing a strategy of attrition. This will involve the reckless and indiscriminate use of firepower.

‘This will result in increased civilian casualties, disruption of Ukrainian infrastructure and intensify the humanitarian crisis.’

Ms Truss also said that the Russian invasion is not going to plan and officials have attempted to create space for forces to regroup.   

But General Hockenhull said that more than three weeks into the war, the Kremlin has not achieved any of its initial objectives. Pictured: Soldiers of the Chechen special forces liberate building after building in Mariupol

The Prime Minister said that it was time to ‘tighten the vice’ on Moscow and said he was ‘more than ever convinced’ that Putin will fail.  

He emphasised that Putin had underestimated the heroism and resolve of Ukrainians to fight.

The Prime Minister added: ‘He underestimated western unity.

‘And among other things, by the way, he underestimated the passionate commitment of the people in this country to help.’

Also at the conference, Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said that 100,000 places had been created in schools for children fleeing Ukraine and virtual lessons created during the coronavirus pandemic had been translated into Ukrainian

Sajid Javid had earlier said at the Conservative Spring Forum in Blackpool that the Prime Minister was being hailed a hero in Ukraine.  

He said that the support the UK had offered Ukraine had prompted a British Ukrainian man to stop him in his constituency and say: ‘the next time you see Boris you tell him, in Ukraine he’s a hero’.

Also at the conference, Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said that 100,000 places had been created in schools for children fleeing Ukraine and virtual lessons created during the coronavirus pandemic had been translated into Ukrainian.   

Sajid Javid had earlier said at the Conservative Spring Forum in Blackpool that the Prime Minister was being hailed a hero in Ukraine. He said that the support the UK had offered Ukraine had prompted a British Ukrainian man to stop him in his constituency and say: ‘the next time you see Boris you tell him, in Ukraine he’s a hero’

Michael Gove, the Levelling Up Secretary, confirmed that more than 150,000 households had offered to house Ukrainian refugees, the majority of whom have made their way to Poland.   

And on Friday, former prime minister David Cameron announced that he was driving a ‘small lorry’ to the Polish border with Ukraine with supplies.   

It comes after Putin made a rare public appearance to address a flag-waving rally at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow to mark the eighth anniversary of his country’s annexation of Crimea.   

He praised the efforts of Russia’s forces, declaring: ‘Shoulder to shoulder, they help and support each other.’

It comes after Putin made a rare public appearance to address a flag-waving rally at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow to mark the eighth anniversary of his country’s annexation of Crimea

He praised the efforts of Russia’s forces, declaring: ‘Shoulder to shoulder, they help and support each other’

Body language expert Judi James said that Putin tried to present himself as an ’emotional, reasonable and patriotic man’ during his speech at the rally.  

She added that his pauses for cheers seemed to be choreographed for moments when he tried to appear overcome by emotion.   

And she said that Putin had dramatically rolled his shoulders during the speech, suggesting that he is trying to reboot his strength and his ability to fight.  

And Ms James said that he uses alternate hands to gesticulate with signalling that ‘ranges from tentative, thoughtful explanation with explanatory rituals, like a spread-eagled gesture that rolls into a loose fist, and a flaccid chopping gesture’.

As many as 7,000 Russian troops have died so far in the fighting, including four major generals and a number of other senior officers, American sources estimate.

Body language expert Judi James said that Putin tried to present himself as an ’emotional, reasonable and patriotic man’ during his speech at the rally

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