Just hours after Ukraine and Russia began the second round of talks, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy asked President Vladimir Putin to meet him, salting the proposal with sarcasm.
“Sit down with me to negotiate, just not at 30 meters. I don’t bite. What are you afraid of?” Zelenskyy said at a Thursday news conference.
He was apparently referring to recent photos of Putin sitting at one end of an extremely long table when he met with French President Emmanuel Macron.
Zelenskyy said it was sensible to have talks: “Any words are more important than shots.”
Earlier, after hiccups, delegations from Russia and Ukraine arrived at neutral venue to hold a second round of talks to break the logjam.
“En route talks with Russian Federation. Already in helicopters. We will start in a couple of hours,” tweeted Podolyak along with a photo of himself with David Arahamiya, a senior official of the governing party.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said earlier in a video conference that the Ukrainian side had deliberately delayed their arrival, and suggested that Kyiv is a puppet of the United States.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said a Russian delegation was in Belarus waiting for their Ukrainian counterparts. “Our delegation was in place last night. It was expecting Ukrainian negotiators last night, all night, then in the morning. They are still waiting,” he said.
Delegations from both countries were due to meet on Wednesday for the second round of talks. The first round of talks on Monday lasted for five hours and ended without a breakthrough.
Earlier, defiant Russian President Vladimir Putin told his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron that the special operation in Ukraine would be completed in any case.
It was emphasized that the tasks of the special military operation will be fulfilled in any case, the Kremlin said, RT reported.
Putin also detailed the fundamental approaches and conditions in the context of negotiations with representatives of the Ukrainian side.
He confirmed that, first of all, they were talking about the demilitarisation and neutral status of Ukraine so that a threat to Russia never comes from Ukrainian territory.
In addition, Putin, in a conversation with Macron, warned that the Russian side would continue to uncompromisingly fight against militants of nationalist armed groups in Ukraine.
“It was noted that during the special operation to protect Donbass, Russia intends to continue the uncompromising fight against militants of nationalist armed groups who commit war crimes, including placing military equipment in residential areas and using the civilian population as human shields,” the Kremlin press service said.
In the telephone conversation, the Russian leader gave Macron “reasoned explanations about the significant role of neo-Nazis in the state policy of Kyiv”.
According to French Prime Minister Jean Castex, Jean Castex, the heads of state also discussed humanitarian issues in connection with the situation in Ukraine.