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.
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.
Freedom square. Heart of Kharkiv. pic.twitter.com/D0qhKJPibC
— KyivPost (@KyivPost) March 1, 2022
No significant outcome or changes came about during the talks, only that both camps had agreed to the second round of negotiations. According to reports, Ukraine’s demands were the withdrawal of all Russian troops from Ukraine and an immediate ceasefire. However, these were not permitted for now. The second round would reportedly be held to achieve the said ceasefire in Ukraine to prevent further loss of life.
Zelensky had earlier predicted that no breakthroughs were to come of the peace talks, stating, “I’ll say frankly, like always, I don’t believe that much in the result of this meeting but let them try so that not a single citizen of Ukraine has any doubt left that I, as President, used every chance to stop the war, even a small one,”
According to Medinsky, the two delegations had found common positions that they could further work on. On the other hand, Podolyak reported that the main subject of the first round of talks was the cessation of conflicts on the Ukrainian territory and to achieve a ceasefire, which ultimately did not materialize.
Makei, who was present in the talks, said that both parties were “cautious and optimistic” and that Belarus is glad that it was able to host the peace talks. Each delegation would then report to their respective commanders-in-chief so that each side could determine what would be the next course of action to take.
With no ceasefire in place, the world continues to condemn the Russian attack on the Ukrainian people, which has killed 102 to 350 civilians with over 1,500 injured because of the continued fighting. Sources say that the number of casualties and deaths could be much higher. Sanctions continue to bombard Putin and several Russian banks, as the US, EU, UK, and other allies have cut the Russian Federation from SWIFT.
The Ukrainian capital city of Kyiv, where Zelensky and other top government officials are operating in a secret location, is currently under threat of falling to Russian forces as it was seen that a 40-mile long convoy of Russian vehicles was closing in on Kyiv. According to Sky News, the convoy was about 15 miles from Kyiv. Helicopter units based in Southern Belarus were also seen through satellite images about 20 miles from the Ukraine border.
Despite the overwhelming Russian forces, the Ukrainians are holding their positions in the hopes of repelling any further attempts of a Russian invasion. The United States and several key allies are sending in a wide range of munitions to support the Ukrainian defensive strategy further. More so, the Ukrainian Government has created the International Territorial Defense Legion where foreigners who want to fight for Ukraine against the Russians could join the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
“Ukrainians have the courage to defend their homeland, to defend Europe, to defend the values of civilization. However, this is not just Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. This is the beginning of a war against Europe. Against the unity of Europe. Against basic human rights in Europe. Against all the rules of coexistence on the continent,” Zelensky said.
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