Russia has given Ukrainian officials a deadline of 3 p.m. local time (7 a.m. ET) on Sunday to decide whether to meet for talks in the Belarusian city of Gomel.
Vladimir Medinsky, the head of the Russian delegation and aide to President Vladimir Putin, told state news agency RIA Novosti they would stay until the allocated time and wait for a response.
“As soon as we receive this confirmation, we shall immediately set off to meet our counterparts in the negotiations,” Medinsky said. “We stand for peace.”
However, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Sunday he would be willing to hold talks with Russia but rejected their proposal for a meeting to be held in Belarus.
Belarus is an ally of Russia and played a key role in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Russian troops invaded through the Belarus border with support from Belarus’ government, according to Ukrainian officials. The Biden administration subsequently sanctioned nine Belarusian defense firms for their support of the invasion.
Zelensky directly addressed Belarus in an address on Sunday, saying “aggressive actions” from Belarusian territory meant it was not possible to hold talks in the country. Ukraine said it had intercepted a cruise missile launched toward Kyiv from Belarusian territory.
The US State Department on Thursday said Zelensky remained “a prime target for Russian aggression,” while Zelensky himself said, “the enemy marked me as target No. 1.”
“If the talks are rejected, the Ukrainian side shall bear all responsibility for bloodshed,” Medinsky said. “But we remain here until 15:00 waiting for a response from the Ukrainian side.”
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said Sunday he was “waiting” for Ukraine to come to the country for negotiations with Russia, to be hosted by Belarus.
“We are waiting. Everyone is in Gomel waiting. If they come then there will be negotiations,” Lukashenko told reporters after voting in the constitutional referendum in Minsk on Sunday, according to Belarusian state news agency Belta.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters a Russian delegation has already arrived in Belarus for notional talks with the Ukrainian representatives, RIA Novosti reported Sunday.
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