Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky on Sunday agreed to hold talks with Russia but did not attach much hope over the positive outcome.
“We agreed that the Ukrainian delegation would meet with the Russian delegation without preconditions on the Ukrainian-Belarusian border, near the Pripyat River,” Zelensky announced on his official Telegram channel.
Zelensky however said he is not hoping for any positive outcome of the negotiations.” But let them try so that no citizen of Ukraine doubts that I, as president, tried to stop the war when there was still a chance, however small,” he said.
Zelensky had earlier rejected holding talks in Belarus — as Russia has been demanding. Russia staged part of its invasion from Belarus after amassing troops in the country. Zelensky’s stance shifted after he spoke to Belarus President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko
The Russian delegation, led by a former Russian culture minister, Vladimir Medinsky, is already in Belarus. The diplomatic news came on a day when Russian troops, at least for a time, drew closer to the center of Kharkiv,
Earlier, Russian President Vladimir Putin placed nuclear deterrent forces on a “special” alert.
The move was announced during Putin’s meeting with Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu and Chief of Staff Valery Gerasimov.
“Western countries are not only taking unfriendly actions against our country in the economic area. I’m speaking about the illegitimate sanctions that everyone is well aware of. However, the top officials of the leading NATO countries also make aggressive statements against our country as well,” Putin stated.
The move comes in response to “hostile” rhetoric by top NATO officials, he said, RT reported.
Putin earlier on Sunday praised his special forces for “heroically carrying out their military duties” in a new televised address, Daily Mail reported.
Putin gave his “special gratitude” for troops involved in the “special operation to provide assistance to the people’s republics of Donbas” – a reference to the Kremlin’s propaganda line that it intervened in Ukraine to help pro-Russian separatists who were at risk of ‘genocide’ at the hands of the legitimate government, the report said.
Putin spoke to mark the annual day of Special Operations Forces (SOF), as his huge forces appeared to be stepping up their battle to crush Ukrainian resistance amid mounting Russian losses.
Russian forces on Sunday entered Ukraine’s second-largest city of Kharkiv after failing in their overnight efforts to seize control of the capital city of Kyiv – as Ukraine’s president today said his country was ready for peace talks.