Russia, Ukraine End First Round of Talks, Suggest More Negotiations to Come

The first round of peace talks between Russian and Ukrainian officials ended in Belarus on Monday following several days of military action, with both sides open to keeping the negotiations ongoing.

Officials talked face-to-face for the first time at the Belarusian-Ukrainian border since Russia launched its military invasion of Ukraine five days earlier. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's office previously said the key issues were an "immediate ceasefire and withdrawal of troops from Ukraine," but the country continues to see heavy shelling and extensive casualties.

The meeting lasted for several hours before officials headed back to their respective capitals to discuss the negotiations. Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser for Zelensky, said the negotiations were difficult.

"Unfortunately, the Russian side is still extremely biased regarding the destructive processes it launched," Podolyak posted on Twitter.

"The parties discussed holding another round of negotiations where these decisions can develop," CNN reporter Natasha Bertrand quoted Podolyak on Twitter.

As negotiations were underway, Ukrainian cities in the east continued to see heavy shelling by Russian forces with reports of significant casualties. The general staff for the Ukrainian Armed Forces posted on Twitter on Monday a statement saying that residential areas of the city of Kharkiv had been hit with "dozens of dead and hundreds of wounded Ukrainian citizens."

The Ukrainian military's post linked to a video showing the aftermath of an explosion in Kharkob with bodies seen along the sidewalks. The video captioned the attack as "a senseless and merciless strike on a residential area from rocket artillery!"

So far, at least 3,500 Russian soldiers have been injured or killed in the war. UN's human rights chief, Michelle Bachelet, said 102 Ukrainian civilians have been killed with another 304 injured. However, she warned the true figure could be "considerably higher."

Seven children have been included among the dead. During the opening session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Bachelet said that "most of these civilians were killed by explosive weapons with a wide impact area, including shelling from heavy artillery and multi-launch rocket systems, and airstrikes."

On Monday, the Ukrainian president officially filed a request to join the European Union and asked for the process to be fast tracked under a special procedure as the country continues to fight against Russia.

"Our goal is to be with all Europeans and, most importantly, to be equal. I'm sure that's fair. I am sure we deserve it," Zelensky said during a speech.

The Russian and Ukrainian delegations will meet for another round of negotiations at a later time, said a top Ukrainian adviser, according to the Russian RIA news agency.

Update 2/28/2022 1:52 p.m. ET: This story has been updated to provide additional details.

First Round of Negotiations Concluded
Russian and Ukrainian peace talks concluded after the first round of negotiations, with both sides open to additional meetings. Above, the Ukrainian and Russian national flags are placed on a table ahead of peace talks between the countries' delegations in a guest house in the Gomel region, Belarus, on Monday, February 28. Sergei Kholodilin/BelTA Pool/AP Photo