Ukraine has agreed to hold talks with Russia on the Belarus border, news agency AFP reported on Sunday, quoting the presidency, shortly after Valdimir Putin ordered his defence chiefs to put the country’s nuclear “deterrence forces” on high alert.
“I order the Defence Minister and the Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces to put the deterrence forces of the Russian army into a special mode of combat service,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said, accusing the West of taking “unfriendly” steps against his country.
Almost around the same time, Ukraine announced it was ready to hold talks with Russia at its border with Belarus – near the Chernobyl exclusion zone – after a phone call between President Volodymyr Zelensky and Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko.
Ukraine had earlier turned down Moscow’s offer of a meeting in Belarus, which has allowed Russian troops passage to attack Ukraine. Ukraine had proposed Warsaw, Bratislava, Budapest, Istanbul and Baku as possible alternative locations for any talks.
Ukrainian forces had secured full control of its second city Kharkiv on Sunday following street fighting with Russian troops, the local governor said. “Kharkiv is fully under our control,” the head of the regional administration, Oleg Sinegubov, said on Telegram, adding that the army was expelling Russian forces during a “clean-up” operation.
Ukraine took Russia to the International Court of Justice in The Hague on Day 4 of the invasion, as Russian forces continued to hit Ukrainian cities with artillery and cruise missiles.
Reports citing an European Union official said Putin was “furious” and “fuming” that his military’s invasion of the smaller country hasn’t gone more smoothly. Russia’s invasion force is being slowed and frustrated by unexpectedly stiff resistance from Ukrainian troops, keeping them outside Kyiv, a senior US defence official has said.
Germany and its Western allies have agreed to cut Russia out of the SWIFT global payment system, a spokesperson for the German government said, in a third sanctions package aimed at halting the invasion. In a dramatic policy reversal, Germany on Saturday also ramped up its backing for Ukraine’s battle against Russia, approving weapons deliveries for Kyiv.
Ukraine is establishing a foreign “international” legion for volunteers from abroad, President Zelenskiy said in a statement today. The President has vowed to remain in the capital Kyiv and has said it remains completely under Ukraine’s control.
Protests against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have erupted in Moscow and other Russian cities amid ominous Kremlin threats. More than 900 people have been detained over the demonstrations. More than 100,000 people also protested in solidarity with Ukraine in Berlin on Sunday,
Ukrainian Health Minister Viktor Lyashko yesterday said 198 civilians, including three children, had been killed in the conflict and 1,115 wounded.