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Russia is ready to meet with Ukraine in Belarus for negotiations.

A Russian delegation landed in Belarus on Sunday for discussions with Ukraine, according to a Kremlin spokeswoman quoted by the Ifax news agency. These are the first talks since Russia began its invasion on February 24.

Dmitry Peskov, a Russian spokesman, said the Russian team, which comprised officials from the foreign and defence ministries as well as President Vladimir Putin’s office, was in Gomel, Belarus, awaiting the arrival of their Ukrainian counterparts.

The West replied late Saturday with penalties aimed at crippling Russia’s banking sector, while Moscow ordered its soldiers to advance “from all directions” in Ukraine.

Officials in Ukraine said 198 civilians had been killed since Russia invaded on Thursday, including three children, and warned that Russian saboteurs were active in Kyiv, where residents were forced to flee underground due to explosions.

After accusing Ukraine of having “rejected” talks, Moscow said it fired cruise missiles at military targets, continuing the offensive.

But on day three of Russia’s invasion, defiant Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky vowed his country would never give in to the Kremlin as Washington said the invading force had a “lack of momentum”.

Ukraine’s army said it held off an attack on the capital, but said it was fighting Russian “sabotage elements” inside the city.

In a video message, Zelensky added, “We will fight until we liberate our homeland.”

He had previously stated that Ukraine had “derailed” Moscow’s attempt to destabilise him and urged Russians to put pressure on President Vladimir Putin to end the crisis.

In retaliation for the invasion, the West announced that several Russian banks would be removed from the SWIFT bank messaging system, and that central bank assets would be frozen, thereby limiting Russia’s trade with the rest of the world.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon thinks that half of Moscow’s almost 150,000-strong invasion force, which has been stationed on Ukraine’s borders in recent months, is now inside the nation.

However, there had been a “lack of momentum over the last 24 hours,” according to a US official, and the Russian military had yet to acquire air control over the country.

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