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Kremlin says ready for talks with Ukraine in Belarus, Zelenskyy declines

Minsk [Belarus]: Russia is ready to hold talks with Ukraine in Gomel, Belarus even while Ukraine continues to insist on a venue in a country not taking part in military operations against his country, news reports said 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," Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Sunday as quoted by TASS. However, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a video address released on his Telegram channel that he is ready for talks with Russia in any other country but Belarus, citing the involvement of Belarus with Russia in the ongoing conflict."At the moment, we're saying no to Minsk. Other cities can be a place to meet. Of course, we want peace, we want to meet, we want for the war to end. Warsaw, Bratislava, Budapest, Istanbul, Baku, we have suggested all that to Russia. And any other city will do... in a country, from whose territory the rockets are not flying. This is the only way that the talks can be honest and can really put an end to the war," Zelenskyy said. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko had announced on Saturday that Minsk was ready to provide a venue for holding the negotiations. Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday had recognized Ukraine's breakaway regions - Donetsk and Luhansk - as independent entities. Later, Putin ordered special military operations "to protect" the people in the Donbas region. Russia has been facing immense criticism, especially from the western countries over the recent actions. A number of countries including the US, UK and Germany have applied fresh rounds of sanctions on Russia.

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