Moscow: Moscow continued to exert hefty pressure on Kiev by striking more military targets in Ukraine, while the two sides have expressed intention to start direct dialogue.
The Russian armed forces have disabled 211 military infrastructure facilities in Ukraine since the operation began on early Thursday, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said on Friday night, up from 118 facilities reported in his morning briefing.
During the fighting, a large number of weapons supplied by Western countries to Ukraine over the past few months have been seized, including the Javelin anti-tank missile systems from the US, Konashenkov said, Xinhua news agency reported.
The Russian forces have blockaded Kiev after capturing the Gostomel airfield in a suburb of Kiev, killing more than 200 members of Ukraine’s special units.
Russia has also taken full control of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and military units of the two sides there have reached agreement on the protection of the nuclear facilities and the sarcophagus.
Russian President Vladimir Putin chaired a meeting with permanent members of the country’s Security Council via video link on Friday, commending the performance of Russian soldiers and officers.
“The Russian army’s main armed clashes are taking place not with regular Ukrainian armed forces’ units but with nationalist groups,” he said.
The president noted that Ukraine’s nationalists are deploying heavy weapons, including multiple-rocket launchers, right in the central districts of large cities, including Kiev and Kharkov.
Putin urged the Ukrainian military to “take power into your own hands.”
Russia has no intention of occupying Ukraine and Moscow is ready to hold negotiations straight after the Ukrainian forces “lay down their arms,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told a press conference on Friday.
Also on Friday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a televised address that he wants to hold dialogue with Russia.
Putin agreed to send a Russian delegation to the Belarusian capital of Minsk for negotiations with Ukraine at the level of representatives of the Defense Ministry, the Foreign Ministry and the presidential administration.
But Kiev later suggested holding talks in Poland’s Warsaw and then stopped responding, according to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
Ukraine and Russia are currently discussing a date and a place of possible negotiations, as the sooner dialogue begins, the more chances there will be to resume normal life, Zelensky’s press secretary Serhiy Nikiforov said on Friday night.