Russia, Ukraine signal openness to talks as Kyiv braces for assault

Ukrainian official says Ukraine and Russia are discussing a place and time for talks



People rest in the Kyiv subway, using it as a bomb shelter. — AP
People rest in the Kyiv subway, using it as a bomb shelter. — AP

By Reuters

Published: Sat 26 Feb 2022, 2:37 AM

The Russian and Ukrainian governments on Friday signalled an openness to negotiations even as authorities in Kyiv urged citizens to help defend the capital from advancing Russian forces in the worst European security crisis in decades.

Ukraine and Russia are discussing a place and time for talks, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s spokesman Sergii Nykyforov said on social media.

The Kremlin said earlier on Friday it had offered to meet with Ukrainian officials in the Belarusian capital Minsk, but that Ukraine had instead proposed Warsaw as a venue, resulting in a “pause” in contacts.

“Ukraine was and remains ready to talk about a ceasefire and peace,” Nykyforov said.

But US State Department spokesman Ned Price said Russia’s offer of talks was an attempt to conduct diplomacy “at the barrel of a gun”, and that President Vladimir Putin’s military must stop bombing Ukraine if it was serious about negotiations.

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The overtures stood in stark contrast to events unfolding on the ground and Putin’s harsh rhetoric against Ukrainian leaders, including a call for a coup by the country’s military.

Kyiv residents were told by the defence ministry to make petrol bombs to repel the invaders, and on Friday evening witnesses reported hearing artillery rounds and intense gunfire from the western part of the city.

Zelenskiy filmed himself with aides on the streets of the capital, vowing to defend Ukraine’s independence.

Some families cowered in shelters after Kyiv was pounded on Thursday night by Russian missiles. Others tried desperately to get on packed trains headed west, some of the hundreds of thousands who have left their homes to find safety, according to the United Nations’ aid chief.

After weeks of warnings from Western leaders, Putin unleashed a three-pronged invasion of Ukraine from the north, east and south on Thursday, in an attack that threatened to upend Europe’s post-Cold War order.

“I once again appeal to the military personnel of the armed forces of Ukraine: Do not allow neo-Nazis and (Ukrainian radical nationalists) to use your children, wives and elders as human shields,” Putin said at a televised meeting with Russia’s Security Council on Friday. “Take power into your own hands, it will be easier for us to reach agreement.”

Putin has cited the need to “denazify” Ukraine’s leadership as one of his main reasons for invasion, accusing it of genocide against Russian-speakers in eastern Ukraine. Kyiv and its Western allies dismiss the accusations as baseless propaganda.

The White House said the United States would impose sanctions on both Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov — moves coordinated with the European Union and Britain. However, the steady ramping-up of restrictions has not deterred Russia.


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