By John Ikani
The first talks aimed at stopping the fighting between Ukraine and Russia ended Monday with no agreement.
The talks took place near the Belarus-Ukraine border on Monday as Russian troops continued their attack on Ukrainian cities – including the second-largest, Kharkiv – on the fifth day of Russia’s invasion.
Both parties however agreed to keep talking as fierce fight raged on between Ukrainian and Russian forces in Kyiv while an increasingly isolated Moscow ran into economic havoc at home.
Vladimir Medinsky, who headed the Russian delegation, said the two sides “found certain points on which common positions could be foreseen”. Another round of talks was agreed to, Medinsky said.
Mykhailo Podolyak, a top adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, gave few details except to say that the talks focused on a possible ceasefire and that a second round could take place “in the near future”.
“The next meeting will take place in the coming days on the Polish-Belarusian border, there is an agreement to that effect,” Medinsky said.
Delegations from both countries involved in the peace talks will return to their respective capitals for further consultations before a second round of negotiations, RIA news agency quoted Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak as saying.
No ceasefire in Ukraine
As the talks wrapped up, several blasts could be heard in Kyiv, though few details were immediately known. Russian troops, while attacking on multiple fronts, continued to advance slowly on the capital city of nearly 3 million people.
A 17-mile (25-kilometer) convoy consisting of hundreds of armoured vehicles, tanks, artillery and support vehicles was 17 miles (25 kilometres) from the center of Kyiv, according to satellite imagery from the Maxar company.
Fighting raged in other towns and cities scattered across the country. The strategic port city of Mariupol, on the Sea of Azov, is “hanging on,” said Zelenskyy adviser Oleksiy Arestovich. An oil depot was reported bombed in the eastern city of Sumy.
Video from Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, showed residential areas being shelled, with apartment buildings shaken by repeated, powerful blasts. Flashes of fire could be seen along with gray plumes of smoke.
Moscow increasingly isolated with economic havoc
As far-reaching Western sanctions on Russian banks and other institutions took hold, the ruble plummeted, and Russia’s Central Bank scrambled to shore it up, as did Putin, signing a decree restricting foreign currency.
But that did little to calm Russian fears. In Moscow, people lined up to withdraw cash as sanctions drove up prices and threatened to reduce the standard of living for millions of ordinary Russians.
In yet another blow to Russia’s economy, the oil giant Shell said it is pulling out of the country because of the invasion, announcing it will withdraw from its joint ventures with state-owned gas company Gazprom and other entities and end its involvement in the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project between Russia and Europe.
The economic sanctions, ordered by the U.S. and other allies, were just one contributor to Russia’s growing status as a pariah country.
Russian airliners are now banned from European airspace, Russian media is restricted in some countries, and some high-tech products can no longer be exported to the country.
On Monday, in a major blow to a soccer-mad nation, Russian teams were suspended from all international soccer.