More than 360,000 Ukrainians have fled to Poland, Moldova and other neighboring countries as Russian troops moved into Ukraine's second-largest city. Prompting Western allies to ramp up sanctions. The United Nations has stressed that if the conflict continues, the figure could rise to 4 million.
Ukraine's president announced that his nation was determined for peace talks with Russia, but not in Belarus, which he described as a way station for Putin's attacks.
President Volodymyr Zelensky, in a video statement, suggested Warsaw, Bratislava, Istanbul, Budapest, or Baku as alternate locations.
However, a Russian envoy had first arrived in the Belarusian city of Homel for negotiations with Ukrainian officials, according to the Kremlin.
It's unclear how the venue was finally decided upon, but President Zelensky's office confirmed that the two parties would meet on the Ukraine-Belarus border.
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky stated that no prerequisites would be placed on the talks, which would take place along the Pripyat River, a tributary of the Dnieper River that runs through Ukraine and Belarus. Zelensky had expressed his cynicism about the outcome of the talks, who has earlier spoken with Belarus's president, Alexander Lukashenko.
“Lukashenko ensured that during the departure, negotiations and return of the Ukrainian delegation, all planes, helicopters and missiles placed on Belarusian territory will remain on the ground,” according to a statement on Zelensky’s website.
Subsequently, the Ukrainian president doubted whether the talks would yield much fruit, but said he thought it was necessary to try if it signified a chance at peace.
“I do not believe much in the result of this meeting - but let them try so that not a single Ukrainian citizen has doubts that I as president did not try to stop the war when there was a chance, albeit little,” Zelensky said on Telegram.
President Vladimir Putin, who ordered the offensive with the goal of demolishing Ukraine's military, has stated that he is willing to allow negotiations about Ukraine gaining "neutral" status, a premise Kyiv has rejected. The premise of the talks is open, as is how either side defines neutrality.
Russia's invasion, whose costs were growing exponentially due to tougher-than-expected resistance, ended up drawing ever more fervent reactions from the West, where nations banded together to impose sanctions on Russian banks, Germany overcame decades of opposition to increased military spending, and the European Union shut its airspace to Russian aircraft.
Fedir Venislavskyi, a member of Zelenskiy's political party, said on television that a Ukrainian delegation had already left Kyiv. The statement followed after Russia dispatched a team to a southeastern Belarusian city of Gomel, though Zelenskiy stated that he would decline to hold talks in a country where Russian forces were invading Ukraine.
Russia's envoy mainly consists low-level officials, which include deputy foreign and defense ministers, as well as Vladimir Medinsky, a Kremlin aide known for his extreme nationalist stances.
According to Tass, Russian officials in the delegation stated that they are only interested in discussing the specifics of how Kyiv will meet Moscow's conditions for "demilitarization and denazification." Zelensky, who is Jewish, dismisses Russian accusations that his government contains neo-Nazis.