Ukraine agrees to hold talks with Russia at Belarus bordertext_fields
Ukraine on Sunday agreed to hold talks with Russia at the Belarus border, a Kremlin spokesperson was quoted by the Ifax news agency as saying on Sunday, the first negotiations since Russia started its invasion on Feb. 24.
The latest development comes shortly after Russian President Putin ordered his defence chiefs to put the country's nuclear "deterrence forces" on high alert amid increasing Western pressure.
"I order the Defence Minister and the Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces to put the deterrence forces of the Russian army into a special mode of combat service," Russian President Vladimir Putin said, accusing the West of taking "unfriendly" steps against his country.
Almost around the same time, Ukraine announced it was ready to hold talks with Russia at its border with Belarus - near the Chernobyl exclusion zone - after a phone call between President Volodymyr Zelensky and Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko. The Kremlin said the talks had started.
"I do not really believe in the outcome of this meeting, but let them try, so that later not a single citizen of Ukraine has any doubt that I, as president, tried to stop the war," President Zelenskiy said.
Ukraine had earlier turned down Moscow's offer of a meeting in Belarus, which has allowed Russian troops passage to attack Ukraine. Ukraine had proposed Warsaw, Bratislava, Budapest, Istanbul and Baku as possible alternative locations for any talks.
Ukraine took Russia to the International Court of Justice in The Hague on Day 4 of the invasion, as Russian forces continued to hit Ukrainian cities with artillery and cruise missiles.
Reports citing a European Union official said Putin was "furious" and "fuming" that his military's invasion of the smaller country hasn't gone more smoothly. Russia's invasion force is being slowed and frustrated by unexpectedly stiff resistance from Ukrainian troops, keeping them outside Kyiv, a senior US defence official has said.
The European Union announced a fresh tranche of measures to hurt Russia including banning all Russian-run planes from its skies, and the country's state media outlets, as well as funding weapons for Ukraine.