Kyiv, Ukraine — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Friday that "meaningful" talks over ending thewouldn't be possible until the country was capable of defending itself, and that no "just and lasting" peace could be achieved unless it involved Russia's military withdrawal from occupied Ukrainian territory.
"A cease-fire that simply freezes current lines in place," which would allow Russian President Vladimir Putin "to consolidate control over the territory he has seized, and rest, rearm, and reattack — that is not a just and lasting peace," Blinken said in a speech during a visit to Finland, which recently joined NATO and shares a long border with Russia.
"Precisely because we have no illusions about Putin's aspirations, we believe the prerequisite for meaningful diplomacy and real peace is a stronger Ukraine — capable of deterring and defending against any future aggression," added the top American diplomat.
Russia must also pay a share of Ukraine's reconstruction and be held accountable for launching its full-scale invasion of its neighbor in February 2022, Blinken said, adding that allowing Moscow to keep the one-fifth of Ukrainian territory it had occupied would send the wrong message to Russia and to "other would-be aggressors around the world," according to Blinken.
Russia, however, wants any talks to address Ukraine's request to join NATO. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has pushed for the country's membership in the Western military alliance that the Kremlin sees as a threat.
"Naturally, this (issue) will be one of the main irritants and potential problems for many, many years to come," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Friday.
Blinken said Washington was ready to support peace efforts by other countries, including recent overtures from China and Brazil. But any peace agreement must uphold the principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence, he said.
The United States is a leading Western ally and supplier of arms to Kyiv to help it push back against the Kremlin's forces.
China, which claims neutrality in the Ukraine war and wants to serve as a mediator but has, on Friday urged countries to stop sending weapons to Ukraine.
Russia attacks Kyiv for 6th consecutive day
In Kyiv, air defenses shot down more than 30 Russian cruise missiles and drones Friday in Moscow's sixth air attack in six days, local officials said.
The Ukrainian capital was simultaneously attacked from different directions by Iranian-made Shahed drones and cruise missiles from the Caspian region, senior Kyiv official Serhii Popko wrote on Telegram.
A 68-year-old man and an 11-year-old child were wounded in the attack, with private houses, outbuildings and cars sustaining damage from falling debris, according to Ukraine's Prosecutor General's Office.
A recent spate of attacks on the capital has put strain on residents and tested the strength of Ukraine's air defenses while Kyiv officials plot what they say is an upcoming counteroffensive to push back the Kremlin's forces 15 months after their full-scale invasion. Kyiv was the target of drone and missile attacks on 17 days last month, including daylight attacks.
Moscow's strategy could backfire, however, according to the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank.
The air campaign aims to "degrade Ukrainian counteroffensive capabilities, but ... the Russian prioritization of Kyiv is likely further limiting the campaign's ability to meaningfully constrain potential Ukrainian counteroffensive actions," it said in an assessment late Thursday.
Ukrainian air defenses intercepted all 15 cruise missiles and 21 attack drones targeted at Kyiv on Thursday night, Ukraine's chief of staff, Valerii Zaluzhnyi, said.
Ukraine's presidential office said Friday that at least four civilians were killed and 42 wounded over the previous 24 hours.
The Moscow-appointed governor of Ukraine's occupied Donetsk province, Denis Pushilin, claimed Friday that three people had been killed and four wounded, including a 3-year-old-girl, by Ukrainian strikes on the region.
The previous day, Ukraine said three civilians were killed in Kyiv by a pre-dawn missile barrage, as debris from one of the intercepted Russian rockets fell onto them in the north of the capital.
As CBS News senior foreign correspondent Debora Patta reported, that strike shattered the safety of one Kyiv man's family. His— hit by falling debris as they raced to an air raid shelter.
Russia under fire
Meanwhile, border regions of Russia once again came under fire from Ukraine. Recent cross-border raids have also rattled those regions of Russia and put the Kremlin on guard.
That could be a Ukrainian strategy to disperse Russian forces before a counteroffensive begins, though Ukrainian officials publicly deny any "direct links" to the cross-border attacks on Russian territory, which have included drones flying close to the Kremlin in Moscow.
As CBS News' Patta recently reported, some of these attacks have beenthat operate across the two countries' shared border.
"Russian commanders now face an acute dilemma of whether to (strengthen) defenses in Russia's border regions or reinforce their lines in occupied Ukraine," the U.K. Ministry of Defense said Friday.
Air defense systems shot down "several Ukrainian drones" overnight Thursday in Russia's southern Kursk region, which borders Ukraine, regional Gov. Roman Starovoit wrote on Telegram.
In the neighboring Bryansk region, which also borders Ukraine, regional Gov. Alexander Bogomaz said that Ukrainian forces shelled two villages on Friday morning. No casualties were reported.
Two drones also attacked energy facilities in Russia's western Smolensk region, which borders Belarus, in the early hours of Friday, officials said.
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