Ukraine-Russia negotiations begin in Belarus as war rages across Ukraine

The head of the Russian delegation stated that Russia is interested in reaching agreements with Ukraine "as soon as possible."

 This photograph taken on February 27, 2022 shows a Russian Armoured personnel carrier (APC) burning next to unidentified soldier's body during fight with the Ukrainian armed forces in Kharkiv. (photo credit: SERGEY BOBOK/AFP via Getty Images)
This photograph taken on February 27, 2022 shows a Russian Armoured personnel carrier (APC) burning next to unidentified soldier's body during fight with the Ukrainian armed forces in Kharkiv.
(photo credit: SERGEY BOBOK/AFP via Getty Images)

Talks between Russia and Ukraine began in Belarus on Monday morning, as fighting continued on the fifth day of Russia's invasion of its southwestern neighbor.

Negotiations ended early in the evening, and the delegants returned to their respective countries for deliberations before another round of negotiations.

In a phone conversation with France's President Emmanuel Macron, Putin set three conditions for the end of the war: Ukrainian recognition of Russian sovereignty over Crimea, solving problems of "demilitarization and denazification of the Ukrainian state" and ensuring Ukraine's "neutral status", according to Pravda.

The Belarusian Foreign Ministry shared a photo of the room where negotiations were taking place, tweeting that they were just waiting for delegations to arrive. The Ukrainian delegation arrived on Monday morning.

The head of the Russian delegation, Vladimir Medinsky, stated that Russia is interested in reaching agreements with Ukraine "as soon as possible." According to Ukrainian state media, Ukraine is demanding an immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of Russian troops from the country.

Zelensky signed an official application to join the EU after announcing that he would request to do so in a special process.

 Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks alongside other Ukrainian officials in the governmental district of Kyiv, confirming that he is still in the capital, in Kyiv, Ukraine February 25, 2022 in this screengrab obtained from a handout video. (credit: Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via REUTERS) Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks alongside other Ukrainian officials in the governmental district of Kyiv, confirming that he is still in the capital, in Kyiv, Ukraine February 25, 2022 in this screengrab obtained from a handout video. (credit: Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via REUTERS)

There will be a debate about making Ukraine a member of the European Union, the bloc's chairman Charles Michel told French TV station BFM on Monday.

"This is a debate which, in any case, will be held," he said, adding that the bloc already had a "very powerful" association agreement with Ukraine which could be reinforced.

Meanwhile, the Vatican is ready to "facilitate dialog" between Russia and Ukraine to end the war, its top diplomat said on Monday.

Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, who ranks second only to the pope in the Vatican hierarchy, told Italian newspapers that "despite the war unleashed by Russia against Ukraine" he was "convinced there is always room for negotiations."

Protests against the war were reported in Russia and Belarus on Sunday. Videos shared on social media showed crowds chanting slogans against the war in various cities. About 800 people were detained in Belarus for "violating public order," according to TASS.

Read more on the Russia-Ukraine War:

The United Nations Human Rights Council agreed on Monday to Ukraine's request to hold an urgent debate this week on Russia's invasion, minutes after Kyiv's envoy told the Geneva forum that some of Moscow's military actions "may amount to war crimes."

The 47-member council adopted the proposal by a vote of 29 in favor, (including the United States), with five against (including Russia and China), and 13 abstentions after Russia's ambassador Gennady Gatilov called for a roll call vote.

"Russia, a member of this council, proceeded to an unprovoked and unjustified attack on Ukraine," its ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Yevheniia Filipenko, said in an opening speech. "It was not just an attack on Ukraine, it was an attack on every UN member state, on the United Nations and on the principles that this organization was created to defend."

Gatilov said at the talks that Russia had launched "special operations to stop the tragedy" in Ukraine's Donbas region, and that Russia's forces were not firing on civilian targets in Ukraine.

French President Emmanuel Macron reiterated the international community's demands to halt Russia's offensive in Ukraine in a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday, Macron's office said.

Macron also urged Putin to stop all strikes on civilians in Ukraine, preserve the civilian infrastructure and provide safe access to key roads, especially south of Kyiv, it said.

"President Putin confirmed his willingness to commit on these three points," the Elysee Palace said, adding that the two leaders also agreed to stay in contact over coming days.