Ukraine agreed to conduct peace negotiations with Russia last weekend “without preconditions,” but the talks stalled out on Monday with no apparent path to resolving the ongoing conflict.
The talks on Ukraine’s border with Belarus near Russian troops moved into Ukraine close to the Pripyat River. The Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko was reportedly involved in conducting the talks and maintaining a peaceful negotiation environment.
The Ukrainians left the peace talks on Monday with little optimism, as Russian President Vladimir Putin has shown no interest in making concessions. Putin has reportedly told French President Emmanuel Macron that he is maintaining his demand that Ukraine must fully disarm, proclaim its neutrality and independence from NATO and recognize Russia’s claims on the Crimean Peninsula.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy issued a press release following the talks on Tuesday, accusing Russia of committing war crimes in its attack on Kharkiv. He addressed the EU Parliament to urge that it admit Ukraine as a member of the EU. Zelenskyy said that Ukrainians were fighting to be recognized as “equal members of Europe.”
Zelenskyy acknowledged that Russian forces were seeking to encircle Kyiv and said that his forces intended to protect the capital as the “heart of our country.” The UN has said that more than 660,000 refugees have fled Ukraine to date, entering Poland, Hungary, Moldova and Romania to escape safely.
On Tuesday, the Russian Ministry of Defense said that the Russian military would strike targets in Kyiv that it says are connected to Ukrainian “information attacks.” Russia urged civilians living near communication stations to evacuate their homes. After that, a major television tower was struck and Ukrainian TV was off the air.
Meanwhile, Russia’s currency continues to collapse as unprecedented European and US sanctions are crippling Putin’s economy. Even though the Russian central bank has raised interest rates from 9.5 percent to 20 percent, major international corporations continue to announce withdrawing operations from Russia. The Moscow Stock Exchange remains closed for the first time since the 1917 soviet revolution.