After initially rejecting Russia’s offer for peace talks as it was to be held in neighboring country Belarus, a known political and military ally of the Kremlin, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has now accepted the negotiations on the basis that the meeting would take place along the Prypyat River, four days after the initial Russian advance into Ukrainian soil.
Previously, Zelensky had rejected the initial offer of negotiations in Gomel, Belarus (a city about 175 miles north of Kyiv) as the country was used as one of the staging grounds for the Russian invasion of Ukraine. However, he did express that he was all for a diplomatic solution and peace negotiations, provided they would be held in Warsaw, Bratislava, Istanbul, Budapest, or Baku.
“We offered all of these to the Russian side, and we will accept any other city and country that hasn’t been used to for launching missiles at us,” said the Ukrainian President.
This request materialized when Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko had contacted Zelensky for Ukrainian-Russian delegations to be sent to meet near the Pripyat River for peace talks, without any conditions as the Ukrainian President emphasized.
“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,” Zelensky told the public through a video message.
These statements come after the Russians have reportedly sent their delegation to Gomel in Belarus for peace talks last Sunday. Russian spokesperson Dmitry Peskov reported that the delegation included military officials and diplomats, stating, “The Russian delegation is ready for talks, and we are now waiting for the Ukrainians.”
In an effort to persuade the Ukrainian side of accepting the peace talk deal, Lukashenko had assured Zelensky that “all planes, helicopters, and missiles stationed on Belarusian territory remain on the ground during the Ukrainian delegation’s travel, talks and return,” according to NPR’s London Correspondent Frank Langfitt on Twitter, as Belarus had been implicated in launching missiles to assist the Russian forces.
However, despite agreeing to the peace talks, Zelensky, through his adviser Mykhailo Podolyak stated that Ukraine only wants real negotiations without ultimatums. In his own capacity, he thought that Russia’s move by sending delegates to Gomel was ‘propaganda.’
After Ukraine agrees to meet with Russian negotiators at Belarus border, Ukrainian Ambassador @OMarkarova says Pres. Zelenskyy has always called for diplomatic solution.
— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) February 27, 2022
In an interview with ABC News’ This Week, Ukrainian Ambassador to the United States Oksana Markarova stated, “Our president from the beginning, even before the war started, always was focused on the diplomatic solution,” the ambassador said. “And even after they started the war, he actually called for peace talks all the time, but he always said, ‘We are ready for peace talks, we are not ready to surrender.'”
These peace talks negotiations come after the Russians have intensified bombardments of Kyiv and Kharkiv. Despite the Russian advance, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov lauded the Ukrainian public’s resolve in fighting against the Russians amid four days of continued fighting.
“72 hours of resistance! The world didn’t believe. The world doubted. But we did not just stand. We confidently continue to fight with Russian occupant! We showed the world – don’t be afraid 🇷🇺, be strong & repel it! Support of 🇺🇦 must be more stronger! Your safety depends on us!” he tweeted.
At the 86 hour mark of defensive fighting against the Russian forces, Reznikov also tweeted a photo of him smiling with the comedian-turned-president Volodymyr Zelensky, possibly as proof that the Ukrainian government was still intact after it was revealed that Russian-Chechen assassins were out in Ukraine hunting for Zelensky, his family, and other Ukrainian officials in an effort to decapitate the leadership.
85h of defence.Intimidation of 🇺🇦 is imprudent. Its impossible to break our defenders,moreover its impossible to make the Kyiv lay down arms.The times are difficult,but it will pass.🇺🇦 will win.We’re already winning.Therefore, we advise the occupiers to go home. It's not too late pic.twitter.com/6NPnqOctom
— Oleksii Reznikov (@oleksiireznikov) February 27, 2022
Amid these threats, Zelensky told EU leaders during a video conference call that “this might be the last time you see me alive,” as Kyiv has reportedly been surrounded on all sides making a land evacuation impossible. Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson expressed her concern with Zelensky’s life as she knew they possibly might not see the Ukrainian President again.
According to Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko, Russian forces, despite Ukrainian forces’ best efforts to repel attacks, have indeed surrounded Kyiv after taking hold of Chernobyl, which had emitted more radiation as it was possibly damaged from the attacks, said that every major way out of Kyiv was blocked.
“We can’t do that because all ways are blocked. All ways are blocked, and right now, we are encircled. Everywhere is Russians, and we don’t have a way to evacuate the people. And everyone who had plans to evacuate himself already moved,” he said. However, he later backtracked on his earlier statement stating that Kyiv is not surrounded and that he had misspoken, according to a report by AP.
The US government has since reached out to Zelensky, offering him an evacuation from Kyiv. However, he rejected the offer and stated, “The fight is here. I need ammunition, not a ride,” the Ukrainian President boldly stated.
Kyiv reportedly remains intact despite being under heavy fire. Kharkiv also remains under full Ukrainian control after successfully repelling Russian forces. Various military vehicles had reportedly attacked the city through a small number of forces using light military vehicles. In celebration, Regional Governor Oleh Sinegubov posted on Facebook, “Control over Kharkiv is completely ours! The armed forces, the police, and the defense forces are working, and the city is being completely cleansed of the enemy.” Despite this win, the situation remains fluid in Kharkiv and other Ukrainian territories currently engaged in gunfights.
While these peace talks are currently in play, the threat of nuclear weapons being used in the invasion has now entered the sphere. Just last Sunday, Russian President Vladimir Putin put Russian nuclear forces on high alert following “aggressive statements” from NATO and tougher financial and economic sanctions issued to the Kremlin, and several key government figures and oligarchs, including Putin himself and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
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