The Ukrainian president’s office has confirmed that their diplomats will meet a Russian delegation for peace talks – despite previously dismissing them as ‘pointless’.
Russia said earlier it was ‘ready’ for discussions after attacking its neighbour and has sent a delegation to Belarus.
The talks are said to be taking place without precondition and on the border with Belarus, despite the Russian ally appearing to be readying itself to join the war on Vladimir Putin’s side.
The Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky had told his country in a video message he was prepared to begin talks but not in Belarus, which was a staging ground for the invasion.
He named Warsaw, Bratislava, Istanbul, Budapest or Baku as possible alternative venues and made it clear other locations were also possible.
But despite that, on Sunday his office said on the Telegram messaging app that the two sides would meet at an unspecified location on the Belarusian border. It did not give a precise time for the meeting.
The update came shortly after Putin ordered Russian nuclear forces to be put on high alert in response to what he called ‘aggressive statements’ by leading Nato powers.
Despite the previous demands from Zelensky, Russia had already sent its officials to the Belarusian city of Gomel anyway.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said ‘The Russian delegation is ready for talks, and we are now waiting for the Ukrainians.’
Ukraine’s presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said the Russian delegation have arrived knowing ‘it is pointless’ due to his country’s refusal to meet on enemy territory.
‘They arrived in Gomel knowing that it was pointless. And now they say – “we are waiting,”‘ he said.
‘Zelensky’s position remains unchanged: only real negotiations, no ultimatums.’
Russia launched a fresh wave of attacks on key infrastructure sites in Ukraine overnight on Saturday after being frustrated by a lack of progress in the first few days of the invasion.
There has also been street fighting in the second largest city of Kharkiv, which is located just 12 miles south of the Russian border.
Zelensky said the night had been brutal, with shelling of civilian infrastructure and attacks on ‘everything, including ambulances.’
But in his video message he remained defiant. ‘We have withstood and are successfully repelling enemy attacks. The fighting goes on,’ he said.
The United States and its allies have imposed a range of sanctions on Russia in response to the assault.
On Saturday, they moved to block certain Russian banks’ access to the SWIFT international payment system. They also said they would impose restrictions on Russia’s central bank to limit its ability to support the rouble and finance Putin’s war effort.