President Vladimir Putin has conveyed through a Kremlin spokesperson that he is amenable to talks and prepared to send representatives to Belarus for meeting a Ukrainian delegation.
The offer came after Putin spoke with China’s top leader, Xi Jinping. It followed a comment by the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that he was ready to discuss “security guarantees for Ukraine and its neutral status.”
It is one of Moscow's demands that Ukraine drop its bid to join NATO, and adopt a neutral status.
Earlier, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday said Moscow was ready for talks if Ukraine’s military ‘lays down arms’, adding they were looking to free the country from “oppression”. But with Russian troops advancing towards Kyiv, the signals to negotiate make sense.
Russia is willing to conduct high-level negotiations with Ukraine, Putin told Xi Jinping during their telephonic conversation, China's Foreign Ministry said in a press note. “President Xi Jinping has just spoken with his Russian counterpart on the phone. President Vladimir Putin said that Russia is willing to have high-level dialogue with Ukraine,” Hua Chunying, the spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, tweeted.
Xi also said it was important to "abandon the Cold War mentality, attach importance to and respect the reasonable security concerns of all countries, and form a balanced, effective and sustainable European security mechanism through negotiations".
As the crisis has escalated, China has been forced to balance its close Russia ties with major economic interests in Europe.