MOSCOW: A Russian delegation has arrived in Belarus for talks with Ukraine, a Kremlin spokesperson was quoted by the Ifax news agency as saying on Sunday, the first negotiations since Russia started its invasion on Feb. 24.
Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said the Russian delegation included officials from the foreign and defence ministries and President Vladimir Putin’s office, and was awaiting the arrival of their Ukrainian counterparts in the Belarusian city of Gomel.
Moscow ordered its troops to advance in Ukraine “from all directions” while the West responded late Saturday with sanctions that sought to cripple Russia’s banking sector.
Ukrainian officials said 198 civilians, including three children, had been killed since Russia invaded on Thursday, and warned Russian saboteurs were active in Kyiv where explosions forced residents to flee underground.
Moscow said it fired cruise missiles at military targets, continuing the offensive after accusing Ukraine of having “rejected” talks.
But on day three of Russia’s invasion, defiant Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky vowed his country would never give in to the Kremlin as Washington said the invading force had a “lack of momentum”.
Ukraine’s army said it held back an assault on the capital — but was fighting Russian “sabotage groups” that had infiltrated the city.
“We will fight until we have liberated our country,” Zelensky said in a video message.
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He earlier said Ukraine had “derailed” Moscow’s plan to overthrow him and urged Russians to pressure President Vladimir Putin into stopping the conflict.
In retaliation for the invasion, the West said it would remove some Russian banks from the SWIFT bank messaging system, and froze central bank assets — essentially crippling Russia’s trade with most of the world.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon estimates that roughly half of the more than 150,000-strong invasion force built up by Moscow on Ukraine’s borders in recent months is now inside the country.
But there had been a “lack of momentum over the last 24 hours”, and the Russian military had still not gained air superiority over the country, a US official said.