Putin ready to send negotiation team for talks as Russian troops encircle Kiev

New Delhi: Russian President Vladimir Putin is ready to send a delegation to Minsk for talks with Ukraine, the Kremlin said on Friday as its military encircled Kiev on the second day of Russias invasion of Ukraine, Moscow Times reported.

The negotiations could put an end to Ukraine’s NATO ambitions after its President Volodymyr Zelensky said he was willing to discuss Ukraine’s “neutrality” — a demand of Putin’s — in his latest attempt to appeal to the Russian leader to negotiate. The Kremlin said it took note of Zelensky’s offer.

China’s Foreign Ministry has also said that Putin told Chinese leader Xi Jinping over phone that “Russia is ready for high-level talks with Ukraine”.

“Vladimir Putin is ready to send a Russian delegation to Minsk in response to Zelensky’s proposal,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, Moscow Times reported.

The delegation would comprise Defense Ministry, Foreign Ministry and Presidential Administration officials, Interfax quoted him as saying.

Peskov added that Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, a close Russian ally, welcomed the opportunity to host the Russia-Ukraine talks.

Minsk was previously the site of negotiations for an eastern Ukraine ceasefire in 2014 and 2015. Belarus is currently hosting thousands of Russian troops on its territory after joint military exercises ended on February 20.

The Kremlin spokesman reiterated Putin’s stated goal of invading Ukraine to “help” eastern Ukraine’s pro-Moscow breakaway republics “including through the demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine”.

“This, in fact, is an integral component of [Ukraine’s] neutral status,” Peskov told reporters.

Putin recognised the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics as independent and mounted the military campaign against Ukraine after they requested his military assistance this week.

Donetsk and Luhansk foreign ministers arrived in Moscow earlier on Friday to formally establish diplomatic relations, the report said.

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