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Ukrainian, Russian officials to meet in Belarus for talks

By Danielle Haynes and Allen Cone
European Union leaders attend a summit at the Chateau de Versailles near Paris on March 11, 2022. Photo by the European Union/ UPI | License Photo

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.

Also Sunday, the 15-member United Nations Security Council just voted to have the General Assembly consider Russia's invasion of Ukraine after Russia vetoed a U.S.resolution to condemn Moscow with China, Indiana and United Arab Emirates abstaining, like on Sunday's decision. This is the first Special Session since 1982 to address the situation in the occupied Arab territories area of Golan Heights in Israel.

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Zelensky on Sunday also said that Ukraine has submitted an application against Russia to the International Court of Justice, saying it has falsely claimed acts of genocide have occurred in the separatist regions of Luhansk and Donetsk to justify the invasion.

"Russia must be held accountable for manipulating the notion of genocide to justify aggression," he said. "We request an urgent decision ordering Russia to cease military activity now and expect trials to start next week."

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Also, France will submit a resolution Monday to the seeking "unhindered humanitarian access" in Ukraine and a cease-fire.

It's unclear exactly when the talks in Belarus will take place.

"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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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.

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"Lukashenko has taken responsibility 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 agreed 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 Belarus 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.

French President Emmanuel Macron spoke with Lukashenko on Saturday "to demand the withdrawal of Russian troops from Belarusian soil as quickly as possible, as these troops are waging a unilateral and unjust war, and he emphasized the need to cooperate with the international community in carrying out humanitarian operations to come to the aid of the Ukrainian people," according to a statement.

Macron also had calls with other world leaders over the weekend, and they recognized "the need to work on the conditions for the proper delivery of humanitarian aid to Ukraine," and a ceasefire which "must precede any peace talks," according to the Elysee.

The possible negotiations between Ukraine and Russia 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.

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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.

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