Russia-Ukraine set for talks, Russia puts nuclear force on highest alert

Russia-Ukraine set for talks, Russia puts nuclear force on highest alert

Russia’s delegation arrived in Belarus for talks with the Ukrainian side, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted as saying by TASS on Sunday.

“In line with the agreement, the Russian delegation consisting of representatives of the foreign ministry, the defense ministry and other agencies, including the presidential administration, has arrived in Belarus for talks with the Ukrainians,” Peskov said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky finally agreed to meet the Russian delegation on Sunday, following his conversation with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.

“We agreed that the Ukrainian delegation would meet with the Russian delegation without preconditions on the Ukrainian-Belarusian border, near the Pripyat River,” a statement released by the Ukrainian president read, reported the BBC.     

Ukraine’s Deputy Interior Minister Evgeny Yenin confirmed that the talks will take place today, CNN reported.

The Ukrainian side had apparently picked Gomel, a city in Belarus, as the venue for talks with Russia.

“The city of Gomel was suggested by the Ukrainian side itself as a venue for talks. As we said, the Russian delegation is ready for these talks,” Peskov was quoted by the TASS as saying.

Russia will not suspend the military operation in Ukraine during the talks with the Ukrainian side, Peskov added.

“For our part we have warned the Ukrainian side that this time the actions suggested by the military operation will not be suspended – as was done yesterday,” he said.

The talks came soon after Ukrainian forces said that they had repelled a Russian attack on the country’s second city Kharkiv.

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin issued orders to introduce a “special service regime” in the Russian army’s deterrence force.

“Top officials in NATO’s leading countries have been making aggressive statements against our country. For this reason, I give orders to the defense minister and chief of the General Staff to introduce a special combat service regime in the Russian army’s deference forces,” Putin said at a meeting with Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu and Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov in the Kremlin on Sunday, the TASS reported.

On unfriendly actions, Putin said, “I am referring to the illegitimate sanctions, which are very well-known to everybody.”

The BBC reported that Putin had also ordered the Russian military to put its nuclear forces on “special alert” – the highest level of alert for Russia’s Strategic Missile Forces.

Last week, Putin had warned that “whoever tries to hinder us” would see consequences “you have never seen in your history”, which many in the West interpreted as a threat to use nuclear weapons.

After Putin’s orders, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, called the move “unacceptable” in an interview with CBS News.

President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko on Sunday, during his conversation with French President Emmanuel Macron, said, “If the United States, or France … transfer nuclear weapons to Poland, to Lithuania, to our borders, … I will appeal to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin to return the weapons that I once gave without any preconditions.”

Meanwhile, The United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Canada, the United States, France and the European Commission agreed to impose new “tough financial sanctions” on Russia, including disconnecting some of its banks from the SWIFT system, German government spokesman Steffen Hebenstreit told reporters on Saturday.

A number of Russian banks were included in the initial list to face the sanctions, although those were not made public.

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