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 its 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 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.
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 rose was rising rapidly because of tougher-than-expected resistance, drew ever more strident responses from the West, where nations rallied around severe sanctions on Russian banks, Germany swept aside decades of resistance for more military spending and much of Europe closed its airspace to Russian aircraft.
A Ukrainian delegation has already left Kyiv, Fedir Venislavskyi, a member of Zelenskiy’s political party, said in televised comments. The confirmation came after Russia had sent a negotiation 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.
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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