Ukraine war: Scholz tells Putin to withdraw troops before any peace talks can begin

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By Euronews  with AP, AFP
FILE: German Chancellor Olaf Scholz attends trade union conference in Berlin, Germany, 29 November 2022
FILE: German Chancellor Olaf Scholz attends trade union conference in Berlin, Germany, 29 November 2022   -   Copyright  AP Photo

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Friday called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to withdraw his troops from Ukraine in order to reach a "diplomatic solution" to the war which began with Moscow's invasion on 24 February.

During an hour-long telephone conversation between the two leaders, Scholz condemned Russian airstrikes against civilian infrastructure in Ukraine and stressed Germany's determination to support the Ukrainians in ensuring their defence capabilities against Russian aggression.

"Germany is determined to continue supporting Ukraine against Russian aggression," said German government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit

Scholz urged Putin to withdraw Russian troops as soon as possible, but the Russian president used the call to denounce the West's "destructive line" on Ukraine, saying that strikes against Ukrainian energy infrastructure were "necessary and unavoidable". 

"It has been pointed out that the Russian armed forces have long avoided high-precision missile strikes on certain targets in Ukraine, but such measures have become necessary and inevitable in the face of provocative attacks from Kyiv," the Kremlin said in a statement after the first call between Scholz and Putin since mid-September. 

According to Putin, Kyiv is responsible for the explosions which partly destroyed the Russian-built bridge connecting illegally-annexed Crimea with the Russian mainland -- and said therefore Moscow is within its rights to bomb Ukraine's energy infrastructure.

Millions of Ukrainians have been left without electricity over the last month as Russian forces stepped up their attacks targeting electricity plants and other power infrastructure with waves of missile strikes. 

Humanitarian groups have been helping out, for example providing heated tents where people can gather to stay warm as the coldest part of winter approaches and charge up their phones. And there's been assistance too from the international community, sending equipment to help Ukraine restore as much power as it can to the civilian population.