The proposal contains a number of possible steps to end the conflict, including a withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said an initiative put forward by African leaders could be the basis for peace in Moscow’s war on Ukraine, but claimed attacks from Kiev made a halt to hostilities “virtually impossible”.
The Russian leader made the comments in Moscow on Saturday after meeting leaders from Africa in St Petersburg and hearing their calls for Russia to press ahead with their plan.
The proposal, according to the news agency Reuters, floats a number of possible steps to defuse the conflict, including a withdrawal of Russian troops, the removal of Russian tactical nuclear weapons from Belarus, the suspension of an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court (ICC) against Putin and the easing of sanctions.
Details of the proposal have not been made public.
“There are things that are practically impossible to implement, like a ceasefire – but Ukraine is on the move, they are on a strategic offensive, how do we hold fire when they advance on us?” Putin told reporters.
“This can only be a bilateral initiative. But the (African) initiative, in my opinion, can become the basis for certain processes towards a peaceful solution, like China’s initiative, there is no competition or contradiction here,” he said.
Kiev has also previously poured cold water on the African level.
The Chinese proposal, unveiled earlier this year, is a 12-point position paper calling for a de-escalation and eventual ceasefire in Ukraine.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the Ukrainian president, has rejected the idea of a ceasefire now, which would leave Russia in control of nearly a fifth of his country and give its forces time to regroup after 17 grinding months of war.
He has also said that peace talks would require Moscow to withdraw its forces from occupied Ukrainian territory, something Russia has said is non-negotiable.
Commenting on the subject of peace talks, Putin said: “We did not reject them”, but that “for this process to begin, there must be agreement on both sides”.
The Russian president also appeared to downplay not attending an economic summit in South Africa’s Johannesburg next month amid the controversy over the ICC’s arrest warrant issued over war crimes related to the abduction of children from Ukraine.
Asked about his reasons for not going, Putin told Russian reporters that he was “in touch with all colleagues” from the bloc of developing economies known as BRICS, and said he did not “believe that my presence at the BRICS the summit is more important than my presence here, in Russia, right now”.
He added that he will attend via video link and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will travel to the gathering on 22-24. August, which will bring together leaders from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
South Africa is a signatory to the Treaty of Rome that created the ICC and is therefore obliged to arrest the Russian leader if he sets foot on South African territory.
South Africa had strongly hinted that it would not arrest Putin if he attended, but had also lobbied for him not to come to avoid the issue.
Although Moscow rejected the ruling, Putin has not traveled to a country that has signed the ICC treaty since he was indicted. Analysts have said that the public debate over whether the Russian leader would travel to South Africa was itself an unwelcome development for the Kremlin.