Zelenskiy welcomes Biden’s ‘personal role’ on peace in eastern Ukraine
By Natalia Zinets
KYIV (Reuters) – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Wednesday welcomed U.S. President Joe Biden’s “personal role” in trying to attain peace in eastern Ukraine, in his first comments after Biden held talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin a day earlier.
Speaking at a news conference, Zelenskiy also hoped that Ukraine and Russia could agree a new ceasefire and prisoner exchanges when their representatives held talks on the conflict in Ukraine’s easterly Donbass region on Wednesday.
“In general, I think it is positive that the president of the United States spoke with the president of the Russian Federation,” Zelenskiy said.
“The most important thing that we see now is that there is a personal real reaction and personal role of President Biden in resolving this conflict, the war in the east of our state.”
Biden and Putin held talks on a video call on Tuesday after Ukraine and its NATO allies accused Russia of massing tens of thousands of troops near Ukraine’s borders in preparation for a possible large scale military offensive.
Moscow denies planning any such attack but has accused Ukraine and the United States of destabilising behaviour and wants security guarantees to prevent the eastward expansion of the NATO military alliance.
Ukraine has for years suggested the United States could join the so-called “Normandy” format talks between Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France to end the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Russia on Wednesday signalled it was open to the idea.
Ukraine’s ties with Russia collapsed in 2014 after Russia’s annexation of Crimea and Moscow-backed forces seized territory in eastern Ukraine that Kyiv wants back. Kyiv says some 14,000 people have been killed in fighting since then.
Zelenskiy won a landslide election in 2019 promising to end the conflict, but after some initial confidence building measures, including prisoner exchanges, fighting has flared up again periodically this year.
Zelenskiy said he hoped Wednesday’s talks could “find a way out of a difficult situation in at least three issues”: declaring a ceasefire, new prisoner exchanges and re-opening a checkpoint between Ukrainian and separatist-held territory.
(Writing by Matthias Williams; Editing by William Maclean)