Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy called on Russia to start direct negotiations to end the Donbass war, after almost eight years of armed conflict.
“We must tell the truth that we will not be able to stop the war without direct talks with Russia,” Zelenskiy said Wednesday in an address to the Ukrainian parliament.
Negotiations, sponsored by France and Germany, to stop the fighting between the neighboring countries have repeatedly failed to deliver peace in Ukraine’s eastern border region since Russian-back separatists seized control of a large swath of eastern Ukraine.
“The war in Donbass has been going on for eight years. Eight years since Russia annexed Crimea,” Zelenskiy said. “And I’m not afraid to tell everyone about it and speak directly to the Russians. That’s why, at the same time, I’m not afraid to talk to them directly. We are not afraid of direct dialogue.”
Until now, terms of the Minsk II peace accord have officially been negotiated only in the so-called Normandy Format with the participation of France and Germany, but Paris and Berlin said last month that the Kremlin had refused to meet in the Normandy Format, casting uncertainty over future talks.
Ukraine and Russia have repeatedly accused one another of failing to live up to the terms of the peace accord.
In early September, the Kremlin’s spokesperson said a bilateral meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Zelenskiy on the Donbass conflict was “clearly not possible”, unless the agenda included Kyiv’s steps to implement the Minsk agreement, according to the Russian news agency TASS.
Zelenskiy had made an attempt to start bilateral negotiations with Russia in April, when he invited Putin to meet “anywhere in the Ukrainian Donbass where the war is going on”.
Zelenskiy’s call comes as NATO foreign affairs ministers were meeting in Riga, discussing the Russian military threat to Ukraine and potential responses by allies, including economic sanctions.
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