Ukraine ready for peace talks with Russia but not in Belarus, says Volodymyr Zelensky

Russia’s actions bear signs of genocide, Ukrainian president says

Arpan Rai
Sunday 27 February 2022 09:07 GMT
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Ukraine accuses Russian troops of blowing up gas pipeline in Kharkiv

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky on Sunday said his country was ready for talks with Russia but rejected the offer to hold them in Belarus, calling it an invasion staging ground.

Mr Zelensky offered alternate locations in Europe such as Warsaw, Bratislava, Budapest or Baku to hold peace talks.

“We want to talk, we want to end the war,” the Ukrainian president said in a video to the Russian leaders, adding that the talks can be held, but only in a country “from which missiles aren’t flying”.

Other locations are also possible, Mr Zelensky said, but added that Ukraine will not hold peace talks in Russia’s hand-picked country Belarus, which has played a critical role in aiding Moscow’s invasion.

The president urged the world to scrap Russia’s voting power at the United Nations Security Council, adding that the Russian actions bear signs of genocide.

He added: “This is terror. They are going to bomb our Ukrainian cities even more, they are going to kill our children even more subtly. This is the evil that has come to our land and must be destroyed.”

Mr Zelensky’s remarks came shortly after the Kremlin said its leaders had reached Belarus for peace talks.

The Russian delegation included officials from the foreign and defence ministries and president Vladimir Putin’s office, reported the Interfax news agency.

In an arm-twisting tactic, Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko asked Kyiv to sit down and hold talks if it did not want to lose its statehood.

An adviser to Mr Zelensky said Ukraine wanted only “real negotiations” with Russia over its military offensive, without ultimatums. He added that Moscow’s Belarus move was merely “propaganda”.

Heavy fighting is underway in Ukraine’s second-largest city of Kharkiv after Russian troops entered it in the early hours of Sunday, marking the fourth day of the Russian invasion.

Major attacks overnight included a gas pipeline outside Kharkiv that was set ablaze by Russian troops, and an oil depot in Vasylkiv near Kyiv that was destroyed by a Russian missile strike.

Toxic fumes from the explosion prompted Kyiv authorities to ask citizens to stay indoors and keep windows shut.

The capital Kyiv otherwise appeared relatively calm, and remains under the control of Ukrainian forces, according to deputy mayor Mykola Povoroznyk.

Additional reporting by agencies

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