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Negotiations between Russia and Ukraine begin in Belarus

Gomel [Belarus]: Negotiations between the delegations of Russia and Ukraine to resolve the ongoing conflict between the two countries began in the Gomel region of Belarus here on Monday. High-level delegations from both sides arrived at the venue on the banks of the Pripyat River to attempt a negotiated settlement in the ongoing crisis. According to the office of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the Ukrainian delegation includes the Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov, the head of the parliament faction of the Servant of the People party, and a deputy foreign minister. The Russian delegation is led by former Minister of Culture Vladimir Medinsky. "Immediate ceasefire and withdrawal of troops from Ukraine will be the key issues at the talks," the office of the Ukrainian president informed. "Since [there are] dead Ukrainian citizens, dead Ukrainian soldiers every hour of the conflict, we are certainly interested in reaching some agreements as quickly as possible. These agreements must be, of course, in the interests of both parties," Medinsky said before the beginning of the meeting. The Ukrainian side had refused to negotiate in Belarus earlier on Sunday, even as the Russian delegation arrived in the country. The Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy asked for negotiation in any other country but Belarus saying, "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 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." Later on the same day, the Ukrainian side agreed to send a delegation to Belarus after Belorussian President Alexander Lukashenko had a phone call with President Zelenskyy. Earlier today, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belarus tweeted the pictures of the venue saying, "In Belarus, everything is ready to host Russia-Ukraine negotiations. Waiting for delegations to arrive." The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) voted on Sunday to call for an emergency special session of the 193-member UN General Assembly (UNGA) on Russia's military operations in Ukraine. The meeting of the UNGA is scheduled to be held today at 8:30 PM IST. The UNSC too is scheduled to convene later in the day (1:30 AM IST on Tuesday). Russia has been facing immense criticism, especially from the western countries over its recent actions in Ukraine. A number of countries including the US, UK, France and Germany among others have applied fresh rounds of sanctions on Russia.

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