Ukraine and Russia send mixed messages over plan for peace talks

Russian and Ukrainian officials take part in peace talks in Belarus, on Feb 28, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

MOSCOW/LVIV (REUTERS) - Russian negotiators expect Ukrainian officials to arrive in Belarus to kick off the next round of peace talks on Thursday morning (March 3), Russian news agencies reported, but a Ukrainian presidential aide appeared to cast doubt on this plan.

As Russian forces laid siege to major Ukrainian cities, Moscow's negotiator Vladimir Medinsky said on Wednesday the Ukrainian delegation to negotiations would be given a security corridor, according to Russian agency Tass.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak suggested the exact timing of talks had not yet been determined.

"It is doubtful that without the presence of the other (Ukrainian) side at the negotiating table, negotiations can really take place. So just wait for the real start of the dialogue," he said on Twitter.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has previously said Russia must stop bombing if it wants to negotiate.

After nearly a week, Russia has yet to achieve its aim of overthrowing Ukraine's government, but has, according to the Ukrainian emergency service, killed more than 2,000 civilians and destroyed hospitals, kindergartens and homes.

Moscow denies targeting civilians and says it aims to disarm Ukraine, a country of over 40 million people, in a "special military operation".

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