Following initial hesitation from the Ukrainian side to hold peace talks due to the location of the dialogue, Ukrainian and Russian delegates finally agreed to meet at the Ukrainian-Belarusian border near Pripyat River for peace talks, a potential end to the war. For the first time since the Russian invasion, the two countries met directly in hopes that peace or a ceasefire would be achieved. No significant changes or ceasefires were agreed upon during the talk. However, both parties did say that a 2nd round of negotiations was possible in order to achieve a ceasefire.

According to reports, both Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky were not present in the secret venue. This was possibly due to security reasons as Belarus is a Russian ally, which makes the venue not neutral. More so, Chechen soldiers were tasked to hunt down Zelensky, his family, and several high-level Ukrainian officials (which were present during the peace negotiations). Despite this, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko had previously assured Zelensky that all planes, helicopters, and missiles stationed in Belarus would remain on the ground before, during, and after the peace talks.

Ukrainian delegation arriving via helicopter to Belarus (Daily Mail via EPA). Source:
News outlets are saying this is the Ukrainian delegation arriving in Belarus, but this Mi-17 helicopter has Red(Err, Russian) army markings (Daily Mail via EPA)

However, the Ukrainian delegation did include several top government officials such as Minister of Defense Oleksii Reznikov, Adviser to the Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine Mykhailo Podolyak, and the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Mykola Tochytskyi. On the other hand, the Russian delegation was headed by Presidential aide Vladimir Medinsky.

The 5-hour long talk was started with a welcome from Belarusian Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei, who said, “Dear friends, the President of Belarus asked me to welcome you and to provide everything for your work, as agreed with President Zelensky and President Putin. You may feel completely safe here. This is our sacred duty.”

According to a translation done by CNN, he was also quoted saying that Belarusian President Lukashenko hoped that the peace negotiations would yield solutions in time of crisis. “All Belarusians are praying for this. Any proposals, in terms of organizing today’s meeting, will be considered and absolutely fulfilled,” the Makei said. “We look forward to the results,” he added.

Despite the peace talks being done, it was reported that Russian gunfire and bombardments did not stop during said negotiations. Kharkiv was reportedly shelled again by intense artillery fire, destroying the freedom square. Blasts were also heard in Kyiv.