The United States on Friday imposed sanctions on Russian President Vladimir Putin over Moscow’s ongoing military operation in Ukraine as the Russian and Ukrainian governments signaled an openness to negotiations.
“In alignment with the decision by our European allies, the United States will join them in sanctioning President Putin and Foreign Minister Lavrov and members of the Russian national security team,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told a regular news briefing on Friday.
Earlier on Friday, EU states and Britain agreed to freeze any European assets owned by Putin and Lavrov.
In response, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the sanctions were irrelevant since neither of them had accounts in Britain or elsewhere.
The Russian and Ukrainian governments on Friday also signaled an openness to negotiations, offering a glimmer of hope for diplomacy.
Kremlin spokesman Peskov said, President Vladimir Putin is ready to send a Russian delegation to the Belarusian capital of Minsk for negotiations with Ukraine.
The Russian team will consist of representatives of the defense ministry, the foreign ministry and the presidential administration, Peskov said.
Earlier in the day, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a televised address that he wanted to hold negotiations with Russia over its military operation.
Ukraine and Russia will consult in coming hours on a time and place for talks, Ukrainian president’s spokesman Sergii Nykyforov said on social media.
The Kremlin said earlier it offered to meet in Minsk but Ukraine had proposed Warsaw as the venue. That, according to Peskov, resulted in a “pause” in contacts.
Fighting reported around Kyiv
Two explosions were heard on Friday in central Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, as the Russian military operation against Ukraine entered the second day.
Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said Friday that Russian troops were fast heading toward the center of Kyiv.
“The Russian military seized two vehicles of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, changed into the uniform of the Ukrainian military and are moving at high speed towards the center of Kyiv,” Ukraine’s government-run news agency Ukrinform quoted Maliar’s post on Facebook as saying.
In a video message on Friday, Zelenskyy urged Russia to stop its military operation in his country and negotiate with Ukraine over how to end the conflict, according to a statement released by Ukraine’s Presidential Office.
Putin on Thursday authorized a “special military operation” in the Donbas region, but Ukraine confirmed that military targets across the country were attacked. Putin said the operation aims for “demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine.”