Zelenskiy pledges to end Ukraine conflict
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has promised to end the war in eastern Ukraine.
The comedian turned president told the Munich Security Conference that he hoped to end the separatist conflict by the end of his presidential term in 2024.
“If in five years, we will end the war, bring our people back, then I [became president] for a reason,” the 42-year-old said.
Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin called on Zelenskiy to stick to peace agreements to deescalate the conflict.
Putin stressed the importance of the “complete and unconditional implementation” of western-brokered peace deals.
The conflict in eastern Ukraine has devastated the country’s industrial heartland and killed more than 14,000 people since 2014.
Zelenskiy said he hoped bilateral relations with the US “start afresh” now Donald Trump was cleared of impeachment by a partisan senate.
The president, who – like Trump – had no political experience when he took office, said he wanted to visit Washington and he invited Trump to Ukraine.
“After the whole impeachment soap opera, I want to go and start a blank page on our relations,” Zelenskiy said.
“We have a good relationship with the US and I’m grateful to Americans for their support,” he added.
The former sitcom actor won the presidential election last year on promises to end the fighting in eastern Ukraine. The peace process, however, might include allowing elections that would give separatist border regions more autonomy.
He told the event in Munich that he wanted October municipal elections to be held across Ukraine, including in the east. Peace was a precondition for voting, Zelenskiy said.
“People in Donbass need elections that would be recognised as legitimate. But they can’t be that if held not in accordance with Ukrainian laws, to the sound of gunfire and without control of Ukraine’s border,” he said.
There were approximately 200 Ukrainians held in the rebel-held regions, Zelenskiy said.
Ukraine’s foreign minister, Vadym Prystaiko, told the same event in Munich that the Trump scandal had hampered bilateral ties with its crucial ally.
Prystaiko said the US special envoy Kurt Volker, who was central in talks with Russia, had not been replaced.
He resigned in September before testifying in the US Congress in the impeachment hearings.
“The disappearance of this permanent channel of communication is a grave loss caused by the impeachment process,” Prystaiko told the media.
Volker, who was also in Munich, tried to ease Ukrainian fears about US commitment.
“US policy and US commitment to Ukraine is as strong as ever,” he said. Impeachment was “a domestic political issue” and “nothing to do with Ukraine”.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy wants to reset his relationship with the US. Picture credit: Wikimedia