Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he would be willing to hold talks with Russia but rejected the Russian proposal for a meeting to be held in Belarus, a staging ground for Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.
“We’ve heard a lot of talk about a meeting between Ukraine and Russia that might end this war and bring the peace back to us. Quite often [Minsk] is mentioned as the place for these negotiations," Zelensky said in an address posted on the presidency website on Sunday morning.
"The location was not chosen by [Ukraine] nor by [Belarus]. It was chosen by the Russian leadership."
Belarus has played a key role in Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Russian troops invaded through the Belarus border with support from Belarus' government, according to Ukrainian officials. The Biden administration has sanctioned nine Belarusian defense firms for their support of the invasion.
Addressing Belarus directly, Zelensky said: “If there were no aggressive actions from your territory, we could talk in Minsk, your city. When you were neutral, we talked in Minsk. That’s why we’re not talking in Minsk now."
In 2015, Ukrainian and Russian officials met in the Belarus capital to draw up the Minsk Agreements, which included a fragile ceasefire in two areas of Ukraine taken over by pro-Russian separatists the year before.
"Of course we want peace and want to meet. We want to end the war. Warsaw, Bratislava, Istanbul and Baku were offered to Russia. Any other cities are fine with us as long as there are no missiles flying from this country,” Zelensky said.