peace talks conclude

On Monday, delegations from both Russia and Ukraine met near the Belarus-Ukrainian border. While no definitive conclusions were expected today, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says that a second round of peace talks to take place “in the near future.”

Zelenskyy released a memo Monday afternoon once the talks had concluded: “The parties discussed in detail a number of key topics on which they have prospects for find mutually acceptable decisions. A decision was made to immediately hold additional consultations in the capitals of the states. After that, the second round of negotiations of Ukrainian and Russian parties is to take place in the near future.”

French President Emmanuel Macron (and friend of Vladimir Putin) is said to have spoken with Putin via phone; Putin allegedly said “a deal is possible only if Russia’s legitimate security interests are unconditionally taken into account.” (via Axios) It is unclear exactly what those security interests might be, but could involve the possibility of a Ukrainian membership in NATO.

The talks lasted for about five hours. At first, Putin had refused to send a delegation unless Ukraine “put down its weapons.”

Meanwhile, on the fifth day of fighting, Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, was inundated by heavy shelling. The head of regional government says that at least eleven people were killed and dozens more sustained injuries requiring hospitalization.

Putin’s troops have only moved three miles in the last twenty-four hours, according to a US Defense official. Smaller groups are reported to have fought “gun battles” with Ukrainian forces inside Kyiv, but the city has not fallen to Russian forces. On Sunday, Maxar pictures showed a long horizontal line of what appeared to be Russian logistics vehicles attempting to bring supplies to Russian forces. It is unknown exactly how close this convoy has gotten to Kyiv as of this writing, although some pundits say Russians are having difficulty moving this convoy with supplies.

A Pentagon briefing on Monday afternoon related that the Ukrainians “have made it a tough slog for the Russians to move south.”

Zelenskyy continues to inspire his countrymen to fight, and he’s become a folk hero on the worldwide stage. Today, Zelenskyy sent a signed application to the European Union asking for membership. Zelenskyy said that the membership should be approved “today.” On Sunday, the European Commission President Ursula con der Leyen said, “Ukraine is one of us and we want them in (the EU).”

Zelenskyy has also said that he will be releasing convicted prisoners – at least those who have combat experience – so that they may join in the fight against a Russian invasion. In further statements, the Ukrainian president said that sixteen Ukrainian children and forty-five have been wounded since Russia invaded last Thursday. Zelenskyy also said that Russian casualties number over 4,000; however, these numbers have not been verified by any international agency.

In a Facebook post on Monday, Ukrainian defense minister Oleksii Reznikov wrote: “We offer Russian soldiers a choice: to die in an unjust war or full amnesty and five million rubles of compensation if they put down their guns and voluntarily surrender to prison.”

Russia is already vowing to “punish” any country that imposes sanctions upon Russia or provides aid to Ukraine. Russian officials have specifically said that members of the European Union face a “harsh response” for their part in sanctions and aid.

Officials in Kyiv have warned those still in the capital city to “stay underground” and to “keep lights off” in homes so that Russian planes cannot target civilians.

Ukrainian people are still proving intent on keeping the country free. Volunteers at one Ukrainian brewery are making Molotov cocktails and preparing them for distribution to civilians.

Russian has ordered his nuclear deterrence forces on high alert; the United States State Department today responded by saying that this is likely “rhetoric.” Russia has numerous weapons that could be considered “nuclear,” including some ballistic missiles.