Update: The first day of talks between Ukrainian and Russian officials have ended without any immediate breakthroughs. The two sides were returning to their respective capitals for "consultations," says an aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, per CNN. The delegates discussed meeting again, but there was no word on when that might happen. In the meantime, explosions rattled the capital of Kyiv as well as the second-largest city of Kharkiv. Cluster bombs were suspected in the latter bombing, reports the Washington Post, with 11 people reported killed and dozens hospitalized. Our original story from Monday morning follows:
The good news is that delegations from Ukraine and Russia have begun meeting face to face Monday for the first time since Russian troops crossed the border. The bad news is that "expectations are not high," as the BBC puts it, which might be an understatement based on current coverage. The AP sees the talks, underway near the Ukraine-Belarus border, as a "tiny sliver of hope" toward ending the hostilities. Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky (not part of the actual talks) "expressed little hope" beforehand of a breakthrough, per the New York Times. But "let them try so that later not a single citizen of Ukraine has any doubt that I, as president, tried to stop the war," he said, per the Guardian.
Before the talks began, Zelensky's office said it was demanding an immediate ceasefire and a withdrawal of Russian troops. Top Russian negotiator Vladimir Medinsky issued more of a boilerplate statement saying Moscow wanted an agreement in the interest of both sides, per Reuters. However, the Washington Post notes that the Kremlin was still demanding that Ukraine “'demilitarize and denazify,' making it clear it expected Ukraine’s capitulation" in the talks. Spokesman Dmitry Peskov also complained Monday that the volume of weapons heading into Ukraine from Western countries was “extremely dangerous." Meanwhile, battles continued to rage, and Belarus was expected to join the Russian side soon. (Read more Russia-Ukraine war stories.)