Zelenskiy set for peace talks with Putin
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy is due to hold peace talks in Paris with Russian President Vladimir Putin today (Monday) in their first meeting.
Fighting in eastern Ukraine with Moscow-backed separatists has left more than 14,000 dead since mid-2014.
Zelenskiy has made ending the conflict a priority and appears in a weak bargaining position with Putin.
Zelenskiy has not met Donald Trump in Washington to shore up the key US alliance.
Host French President Emmanuel Macron says he wants to re-engage with Russia and end five years of sanctions imposed after the invasion of Ukraine and the illegal seizure of the Crimean peninsula.
There are concerns about Trump’s attraction to Putin and remarks by Macron that Russia is not a Nato enemy.
The other mediator in Paris, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, is meeting Zelenskiy for the first time since he was heard condemning her in his fateful July 25 phone call that caused the impeachment of Trump.
“People say what kind of a dialogue can there be between Zelenskiy and Putin?” Zelenskiy told Ukraine in an address last week. “You know, it’s possible without this dialogue, but it’s like running on a treadmill … you’re losing calories, but you’re stuck in the same place.”
Some in Kiev fear the comedian turned president will be forced into making too many concessions to Putin. Many Ukrainians strongly oppose any deal with Russia.
“There is a whole cocktail of economics and geopolitics that make the situation for Ukraine very difficult and is posing a lot of challenges,” said Bruno Lete of the German Marshal Fund think tank.
“But it’s critical that Europeans and the US support Ukraine. Without peace and stability in Ukraine, there will never be peace and stability in Europe.”
Macron recently called Nato “brain death” because of a lack of coordination and leadership from the US while advocating a rapprochement with Russia.
Last week Andriy Yermak, an aide to Zelenskiy, said Ukraine would present a new political model for the war-torn Donbass region and consider granting additional powers to municipal councils but would not allow a federal state.
If talks failed the adviser said Ukraine would build a wall with Russia like in Israel. “If we don’t see readiness from Russia to implement the Minsk agreement or to move towards a peaceful solution with a clear-cut timeframe, well, in this case, we’ll be building a wall, and life will continue,” Yermak said.
Picture credit: Wikimedia