Speaking during a public address on Tuesday night, Zelensky urged the restoration of the ceasefire agreed to in 2014 in Minsk, Belarus, as part of a peace plan Kiev has refused to implement. As well as Ukraine and Russia, Germany and France were also signatories to the deal.
“There was a proposal to meet on the line of contact to see and understand the situation as accurately as possible,” Zelensky said, speaking in Russian. “What is there for me to understand? I go there every month. Mr. Putin, I am ready to go even further and offer to meet you anywhere in the Ukrainian Donbass where the war is going on.”
The conflict in Donbass started in April 2014, when two pro-Moscow breakaway republics unilaterally declared independence from Kiev. These regions – the self-declared Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics – are unrecognized by both Russia and Ukraine. However, according to Kiev, they are under the control of the Kremlin, a charge Moscow denies.
In recent weeks, fears of a full-scale war have been growing, with media reports indicating a build-up of both Russian and Ukrainian manpower and equipment in the region.
When Zelensky was elected leader in 2019, he promised to bring an end to the conflict. So far, he has failed to fulfill this pledge, with domestic divisions making his task difficult.
“Ukraine and Russia, despite their shared past, look to the future in different ways. We are us. You are you,” Zelensky said. “But this is not necessarily a problem; it is an opportunity. At the very least, an opportunity, before it is too late, to stop the murderous mathematics of future war losses.”
In particular, the president appeared to be addressing comments from Dmitry Kozak, Putin’s Ukrainian-born-and-raised deputy chief of staff, who said that Russia would be obliged to protect the residents of Donbass if Kiev launches full-scale hostilities against the region.
“In my opinion, every leader today must understand… all sides lose in war,” he stated. “And that you can’t protect someone by attacking. And that it is impossible to liberate someone by invading. And that it is impossible to bring peace by tank.”
Zelensky also noted that Kiev is not afraid of Moscow, due to support from “international partners,” including the United States, France, Germany, and Great Britain.
“They are on our side, as are all our other partners,” he said. “They see perfectly well Russia’s true motives. They are ready to support us financially. They are ready to impose more and more tough sanctions and pass tough resolutions.”
In recent weeks, Western nations have repeatedly expressed concern about military build-up along the border with Ukraine. Putin’s press secretary Dmitriy Peskov has said that the movement of Russian troops on Russian territory should not worry other states.
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