Ukraine ‘ready’ for peace talks with Russia – but with conditions

Ukraine’s president said his country was ready for peace talks with Russia, but not with Belarus, which was a base for the invasion of Moscow.

Speaking in a video message on Sunday, President Volodymyr Zelensky named Warsaw, Bratislava, Istanbul, Budapest or Baku as alternative locations.

He said other locations were also possible, but clarified that Ukraine did not accept Russia’s selection of Belarus.

The Kremlin said on Sunday that a Russian delegation had arrived in the Belarusian town of Homel for talks with Ukrainian officials.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the delegation included military officials and diplomats.

“The Russian delegation is ready for the talks and we are now waiting for the Ukrainians,” he said.

Russia invaded Ukraine on Thursday, with troops flowing in from Moscow’s ally Belarus in the north, as well as from the east and south.

Russian troops are closing in on Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, and making significant gains along the country’s coast.

A Ukrainian official said street fighting erupted in the country’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, on Sunday following a wave of attacks elsewhere targeting airfields and fuel facilities that appeared to mark a new phase of the invasion.

Volunteers work to make molotov cocktails in the basement of an air-raid shelter in Kyiv, Ukraine

Oleh Sinehubov, head of the Kharkiv regional administration, said Ukrainian forces were fighting Russian troops in the city and asked civilians not to leave their homes.

Russian troops approached Kharkiv, located about 20 km south of the border with Russia, shortly after Moscow launched its invasion on Thursday.

But until Sunday they had remained on its outskirts without trying to enter the city, while other forces moved past, pushing their offensive deeper into Ukraine.

Videos circulating on Ukrainian media and social media showed Russian vehicles driving through Kharkiv and a light vehicle on fire in the street.

Earlier, Russia unleashed a wave of attacks targeting Ukrainian airfields and fuel facilities.

Huge explosions lit up the sky early Sunday south of the capital, Kyiv, where people hunkered down in homes, underground garages and metro stations ahead of a full-scale assault by Russian forces.

Flames rose into the pre-dawn sky from an oil depot near an airbase in Vasylkiv, where there was heavy fighting, according to the town’s mayor.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s office said there was another explosion at Zhuliany civilian airport.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says he would be ready for peace talks
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says he would be ready for peace talks

Mr Zelenskyy’s office also said Russian forces blew up a gas pipeline in Kharkiv, prompting the government to warn people to protect themselves from the smoke by covering their windows with a damp cloth or gauze.

“We will fight as long as necessary to liberate our country,” the president promised.

Terrified men, women and children sought safety indoors and underground, and the government maintained a 39-hour curfew to keep people out of the streets.

More than 150,000 Ukrainians have fled to Poland, Moldova and other neighboring countries, and the United Nations has warned the number could rise to four million if fighting escalates.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has not disclosed his ultimate plans, but Western officials believe he is determined to overthrow the Ukrainian government and replace it with his own regime, redraw the map of Europe and revive the influence of Moscow during the Cold War era.

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