Ukraine and Russia held their first round of talks after last week’s invasion but Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky expressed little hope that the discussions would yield a breakthrough, The Associated Press reports.
The Ukrainian delegation met with Russian officials near the Belarus border on Monday. A top adviser to Zelensky told the AP that “more talks could happen soon.”
It’s unclear the extent of what was discussed. Ukraine has pushed for an immediate cease-fire and a withdrawal of Russian troops.
But Russia appears set on removing the Ukrainian government. They’ve also demanded that Ukraine be “neutral” between Russia and Ukraine and have pushed for a withdrawal of US troops from eastern Europe.
"I do not really believe in the result of this meeting, but let them try, so that no citizen of Ukraine would have any doubt that I, as president, did not try to stop the war when there was even a small chance," Zelensky said ahead of the talks.
Putin raises tensions:
The talks came amid intensifying fighting around Kyiv and other major Ukrainian cities, as well as escalating sanctions from the west that have already crippled Russia’s economy.
Putin on Sunday raised tensions during a televised meeting with defense officials, ordering nuclear deterrence forces to be activated.
"Top officials in leading NATO countries have allowed themselves to make aggressive comments about our country, therefore I hereby order the Minister of Defense and the chief of the General Staff to place the Russian Army Deterrence Force on combat alert," he said.
The White House called the move “another escalatory and totally unnecessary step.”
"This is really a pattern that we've seen from President Putin through the course of this conflict, which is manufacturing threats that don't exist in order to justify further aggression -- and the global community and the American people should look at it through that prism," White House press secretary Jen Psaki told ABC News.
UN to hold rare emergency session:
The United Nations is set to hold a rare emergency general assembly session after Russia used its position on the UN Security Council to veto a resolution condemning its invasion.
The UN Security Council voted 11-1 to hold the session, with only Russia voting against and three abstentions.
The General Assembly is set to vote to condemn Russia’s actions, but the vote does not have any enforcement teeth behind it.
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield told diplomats that "the Security Council has taken an important step forward toward that accountability. For the first time in decades, it has called for an Emergency Special Session in the General Assembly. The Council members who supported this resolution recognize that this is no ordinary moment."
"We need to take extraordinary actions to meet this threat to our international system and do everything we can to help Ukraine and its people," she said. "President Putin put Russia's nuclear forces on high alert, even though he is invading a country with no nuclear weapons and is under no threat from NATO.”