Ukraine to Hold Talks With Russia on Border With Belarus
(Bloomberg) -- Ukrainian authorities will hold talks with Russian counterparts on the nation’s border with Belarus, as Russian forces advanced into Ukraine’s second-largest city on day four of their invasion and western allies ratcheted up sanctions.
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Ukraine would hold talks with no preconditions at a location along the Pripyat river, a tributary of the Dnieper that flows through Ukraine and Belarus. Zelenskiy, who voiced skepticism over what the talks may yield, spoke earlier with Belarus’s leader, Alexander Lukashenko.
“Lukashenko ensured that during the departure, negotiations and return of the Ukrainian delegation, all planes, helicopters and missiles placed on Belarusian territory will remain on the ground,” according to a statement on Zelenskiy’s website.
The Ukrainian leader later questioned whether much may come of the talks, but said he felt bound to make an attempt if it meant a chance at peace.
“I do not believe much in the result of this meeting -- but let them try so that not a single Ukrainian citizen has doubts that I as president did not try to stop the war when there was a chance, albeit little,” Zelenskiy said on Telegram.
President Vladimir Putin, who launched the assault on Thursday with the object of dismantling Ukraine’s military, has said he’s prepared to authorize talks about Ukraine adopting a “neutral” status, a premise Kyiv has rejected. The premise of talks and how either side would define neutrality is open.
Russia’s invasion, whose cost was rising rapidly because of tougher-than-expected resistance, drew ever more strident responses from the West, where nations rallied around sanctions on Russian banks, Germany swept aside decades of opposition to more military spending and the European Union closed its airspace to Russian aircraft.
A Ukrainian delegation had already left Kyiv, Fedir Venislavskyi, a member of Zelenskiy’s political party, said in televised comments. The confirmation came after Russia had sent a team to the southeastern Belarusian city of Gomel, though Zelenskiy said he’d refuse to hold talks in a country from which Russian troops were attacking Ukraine.
Russia’s delegation includes relatively low-level officials, including deputy ministers of foreign affairs and defense, and Vladimir Medinsky, a Kremlin aide know for his hardline nationalist views.
Russian officials in the delegation said they were only willing to discuss details of how Kyiv will fulfill Moscow’s demands for “demilitarization and denazification,” Tass reported. Zelenskiy, himself of Jewish heritage, rejects Russian allegations that his government includes neo-Nazis.
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