Posted on Sep 13, 2019
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he expects to meet U.S. President Donald Trump in September, and that peace talks to resolve Ukraine’s ongoing conflict with Russia in the eastern Donbass region will also take place this month, Reuters reports.
Zelensky was elected this year promising to bring peace to Donbass where Ukrainian troops are fighting Russian-backed forces in a conflict that has killed more than 13,000 people despite a notional ceasefire.
Ukraine, Western countries and NATO accuse Russia of sending troops and heavy weapons to prop up separatists in the Donbass. Moscow says it only provides political and humanitarian support to rebels, and that Russians fighting in Ukraine are volunteers, or soldiers on leave.
Satellite images, however, reveal the presence not only of Russian troops, but of Russian heavy armour: it is not customary, even in Russia, for soldiers to take tanks and self-propelled artillery with them when going on leave.
Last weekend's exchange of prisoners has revived hopes of peace talks. Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France last met in October 2016 for talks to implement a peace deal agreed in the Belarus capital Minsk the year before but which did not achieve a lasting ceasefire.
French President Emmanuel Macron and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke by phone on Sunday, agreeing the prisoner swap gave momentum for another summit between the four countries, dubbed the ‘Normandy format’.
“We look forward to seeing the leaders of the four countries in the ‘Normandy’ format,” Zelensky said. “We are waiting for this meeting at the end of September. I think it will definitely take place.”
Ukraine says Russia engineered quasi-separatist uprisings across a belt of eastern Ukraine that escalated into a full-scale conflict. Russia denies doing so.
Two so-called “People’s Republics” – unrecognised by either Kyiv or Moscow – have formed in the Donetsk and Luhansk industrial regions of eastern Ukraine, known as Donbass.
Asked later what Zelensky expected to achieve at the talks, he said he wanted an agreement on a road map for peace in place with exact steps and dates that all sides would take.
“This meeting (with Trump) will probably also happen in the near future, also in September,” he added.
Zelensky said he expected another prisoner swap to build on the previous deal between Moscow and Kiev, but that Ukraine had to tread carefully on proposals to send peacekeepers to the region.
Has has also called for sanctions on Russia to remain in place, describing them as necessary, and said he has ideas for how to end Russia’s annexation of Crimea, but added that he did not want to disclose them publicly.
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