Ukrainian, Russian officials to meet in Belarus for talks

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Feb. 27 (UPI) — A Ukrainian delegation will meet with Russian officials for talks along the Ukrainian-Belarusian border, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s office announced Sunday.

“The politicians have agreed that the Ukrainian delegation will meet with the Russian delegation without preconditions on the Ukrainian-Belarusian border, near the Pripyat River,” Zelensky’s office said, according to CNN.

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It’s unclear exactly when the talks will take place.

The announcement came after Zelensky initially declined Russia’s proposal to meet in Belarus. He said Belarus, which supports Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, is not neutral ground.

“Of course we want peace and want to meet. We want to end the war. Warsaw, [Poland], Bratislava, [Slovakia], Istanbul, [Turkey], and Baku, [Azerbaijan], were offered to Russia. Any other cities are fine with us as long as there are no missiles flying from this country,” Zelensky said.

But the later announcement by Zelensky’s office took into account assurances by Belarusian President Aleksander Lukashenko.

“Lukaschenko has taken responsibility for for ensuring that all planes, helicopters and missiles stationed on the Belarusian territory will remain on the ground during the Ukrainian delegation’s travel, meeting and return,” Zelensky’s office said.

Al Jazeera reported, though, there appears to be confusion about where, exactly, the talks will take place.

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While Ukraine agrred to meet on the border, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters Sunday that Ukrainian officials suggested the city of Gomel, about 20 miles north of the Ukrainian border, as the location for talks.

Russia’s state-run Tass news agency reported the Russian delegation already arrived in Belarusa for the talks. The delegation consists of officials from the Foreign Ministry, Defense Ministry and other federal agencies. The negotiators are headed by Russian presidential aide Vladimir Medinsky.

The possible negotiations come four days after Russia invaded Ukraine amid months of growing tension between the former Soviet republics. Putin has falsely said Ukraine was stolen from Russia after former Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin mistakenly recognized a distinct Ukraine.

Putin has taken issue with Ukraine’s desire to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which would expand the alliance’s territory and bring it closer to Russia’s border.