Ukraine has said Vladimir Putin “needs to come back to reality” in response to the Russian president’s assertion that he was ready to negotiate.

On a day when Russia launched rocket attacks on dozens of frontline cities, Mr Putin told state broadcaster Rossiya 1 that the Kremlin was “ready to negotiate with all concerned on acceptable solutions”.

“But it’s up to them – it’s not us who refuse to negotiate, it’s them,” he said.

Putin says Russia is ‘ready’ to negotiate

Ukrainian officials dismissed Putin’s comments as the Russian president’s forces spent Christmas Day shelling more than 25 towns along the Kupiansk-Lyman front line and nearly 20 in Zaporizhzhia.

At least 10 rocket attacks also hit Kupyansk district in Kharkiv region.

Moscow claimed to have killed around 60 Ukrainian servicemen the day before.

“Russia is trying to avoid responsibility”

Mykhailo Podolyak, Advisor to UkrainePresident Volodymyr Zelenskywrote on Twitter: “Putin needs to get back to reality.

“Russia single-handedly attacked Ukraine and killed citizens. There are no other ‘countries, motives, geopolitics’.

“Russia does not want negotiations, but tries to avoid responsibility.”

It came as Russian officials sought to downplay an incident at Engels air base in the Saratov region.

Three servicemen were killed after UAV debris fell on the site, the Russian Defense Ministry said, adding that the plane was not damaged after a Ukrainian drone attack.

Earlier, local governor Roman Busargin called the incident reports “false information”.

“There is absolutely no threat to the residents,” he wrote on Telegram.

“All stories about the evacuation of the city are blatant lies created far beyond the country’s borders. There was no damage to civilian infrastructure.”

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Ukrainian troops came under heavy shelling on Christmas Day on the front line in Bakhmut

“Russia has lost everything this year”

It has been 10 months since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

And, without serious peace talks for months, there is little end in sight.

Millions of people in Ukraine are without electricity due to Russian attacks on the country’s infrastructure.

Mr Zelenskyy has warned his people that Moscow will try to make the last days of 2022 dark and difficult.

He said: “Russia has lost everything it could this year.

“I know that darkness will not prevent us from leading the occupiers to further defeat.

“But we have to be ready for any scenario.”

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Christmas message from Zelenskyy

“Defend our national interests”

Ukraine says it will not negotiate until all Russian soldiers leave its territory, while Russia says it will continue to fight until it achieves its goals.

Mr Putin said on Sunday he believed he was “defending our national interests…protecting our citizens”.

Mr Putin also blames Kyiv and its Western supporters for the lack of progress in the peace talks, but has made it clear that any negotiations must take place on his terms.

Ukraine says this would be unacceptable, as it would amount to pandering to Russian demands and agreeing to Mr. Putin’s annexation of four Ukrainian regions.

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Pope calls for end to ‘senseless’ war in Ukraine

‘Posture’

The US State Department has not commented on Mr Putin’s latest offer for talks, but after a similar speech by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in October, spokesman Ned Price called the approach of the Russia of “posture”.

“We do not see this as a constructive and legitimate offer to engage in the dialogue and diplomacy that is absolutely necessary to end this brutal war of aggression,” he added.

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