Ukraine on a knife-edge – What could happen in next 24 hours

Ukraine: Translator breaks down during Zelenskyy TV appearance

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After five days of fighting, delegations from Russia and Ukraine are meeting today to discuss the prospect of a ceasefire. The discussions are being held on the border between Belarus – Russia’s ally – and Ukraine, with Volodymyr Zelensky confirming his attendance despite acknowledging that a breakthrough is unlikely.

Mr Zelensky had repeatedly called for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin prior to the conflict beginning, only to be met with silence.

During the discussions Mr Putin is expected to demand that Ukraine adopt a “neutral status”, which includes demilitarisation of the country.

Moscow also wants assurances that Ukraine will rule out ever joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato).

Mr Putin has been a vocal opponent of Nato and before invading, had demanded the military alliance limit its movements in eastern Europe.

The Russian President has claimed that allowing Ukraine entry into Nato would undermine the national security of Russia.

During a phone conversation with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, on Sunday evening, Mr Zelensky said the next 24-hours will be “crucial” as Ukraine continues its fight against Russia.

Mr Johnson commended the leadership shown by Mr Zelensky “in the face of such adversity” and praised the bravery of the Ukrainian people.

Resistance from Ukrainian forces has so far stalled Russia from advancing deep into the country and assuming control of any major cities.

Speaking on Monday, the UK’s Defence Secretary Ben Wallace warned that the lack of progress could force Russia to unleash “ruthless, indiscriminate” bombing of Ukraine in the coming days.

He told the BBC’s Breakfast programme: “At all points they are behind schedule. That puts them under pressure. They are taking, on a daily basis, casualties.”

Over the weekend Russia escalated concerns in the West when it moved its deterrent forces – including nuclear weapons – to “special alert”.

The Kremlin has blamed comments made by Western officials such as the UK’s Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, in recent days, as to why the alert level has been shifted.

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Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said “unacceptable” remarks were made about possible “clashes” between Nato and Moscow over Russia’s attack on Ukraine.

Despite the level of provocation Mr Putin’s decision does not mean Russia intends to use the weapons.

According to the United Nations (UN) more than half a million people have fled Ukraine since Russia invaded its ex-Soviet neighbour last Thursday.

In the face of heavy shelling overnight on Sunday the cities of Kharkiv and Chernihiv – northeast Ukraine – still remain in Ukrainian hands.

Meanwhile, in the capital, Kyiv, the bulk of Russian forces are around 30km (19 miles) outside the north of the city, slowed by fierce Ukrainian resistance, according to the UK Ministry of Defence.

However, street-level fighting has continued in several parts of the city, with further incursions expected from Russian military forces imminently.

Both sides have claimed to have inflicted heavy casualties on one another, however a lack of verified sources has meant the real death tolls are not yet fully known.

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