Thursday 24th of October 2019

renewing the dialogue, without the yankee doodles...


After talking by phone, the Russian and Ukrainian Presidents announced their willingness to hold a meeting at the "Normandy Format" on the situation in Ukraine. Emmanuel Macron has given his "total support" to the initiative.

Volodymyr Zelensky's arrival in power is reshaping the cards for solving the Ukrainian crisis? At the initiative of the Ukrainian side, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart spoke by telephone on August 7, and agreed to hold a meeting in the "Normandy Format", that is to say with France and Germany.

"The working groups are still developing documents to be signed at the highest level," the press service of the Ukrainian president said in a statement quoted by the Kremlin. This is a significant development on the Ukrainian side, since on July 8, Volodymyr Zelensky had already mentioned the possibility of such a meeting by wishing to associate the United States, which is no longer the case.

Anxious to finalize as soon as possible the details of this summit, Volodymir Zelensky called in the wake of French President Emmanuel Macron, who has lent his support to the initiative. "Emmanuel Macron expressed his full support for Ukraine's initiatives and agreed on the need for a summit in the near future, which should be preceded by a meeting of the official representatives of the four parties", said the Ukrainian press service.

The Elysee said that Emmanuel Macron had "welcomed the constructive spirit and concord" in which acted Volodymyr Zelensky and "insisted that the progress of the last weeks will have to be consolidated." The French president "assured" his Ukrainian counterpart "of the full mobilization of France to achieve concrete results in the near future, within the framework of the Normandy format".

Strictly respect the ceasefire

The telephone conversation between Volodymyr Zelensky and Vladimir Putin was also an opportunity for the two heads of state to address the issue of settlement of the conflict in eastern Ukraine. In particular, they stressed the importance of strictly adhering to the ceasefire established on 21 July 2019, as well as the agreements on the disengagement of military forces from the demarcation line. The Russian president insisted that it was necessary, in order to defuse the conflict, to rule out the possibility of further bombing of the Donbass towns and villages by the Ukrainian army, which still generates civilian casualties.


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vying for peace...

KIEV/MOSCOW (Reuters) - Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Wednesday pressed Russian leader Vladimir Putin for a resumption of peace talks after four Ukrainian soldiers were killed by shelling in the eastern Donbass border region.

Conflict between Ukrainian troops and Russian-backed forces has killed an estimated 13,000 people since 2014. A ceasefire deal brokered by France and Germany ended major conflict in eastern Ukraine in 2015, though small-scale clashes still occur regularly. 

Bringing peace to the Donbass region was a top campaign pledge for Zelenskiy, helping him to a landslide presidential election victory in April. He strengthened his power base in a parliamentary election last month. 

He said that, in a phone call with Putin on Wednesday, he had urged his Russian counterpart to exert influence over the Donbass fighters and agree to relaunch peace talks. 

Tuesday’s four deaths marked the highest toll of Ukrainian troops in a single day since Zelenskiy took office. 

“I said that this doesn’t bring us closer to peace,” Zelenskiy said of the phone call. “I beg you to influence the other side so that they stop the killing of our people.”

He said the Russian president had promised him something, details of which would be disclosed later. 

Putin in turn said Ukrainian forces must stop the shelling of settlements in the Donbass that led to civilian casualties. 

Both sides agreed to intensify work on prisoner exchanges. Russia holds dozens of Ukrainian captives from the conflict but it is unclear how many Russians are being held in Ukraine. 

The leaders of Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany last met in 2016 for their “Normandy Format” talks on the Donbass. 

Zelenskiy said he planned to speak to French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel about arranging more talks. The Kremlin said Putin and Zelenskiy had discussed the prospect of such a meeting.

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prisoners swap...

A prisoner swap between Russia and Ukraine is under way, the president's office in Ukraine says.

The statement did not indicate who was being swapped, and would only say the process was "ongoing" and had yet to be completed.

But a Ukrainian prosecutor earlier said those being freed include the film-maker Oleg Sentsov and 24 Ukrainian sailors who were detained last year.

There has been no confirmation of the swaps from Russia.

Relatives of some of the detainees are already reported to be gathering at airports in Kiev.

Rumours that a prisoner swap is imminent have spread in recent days as Sentsov was moved to Moscow from a prison in Russia's Arctic north.

Who are the prisoners?

Sentsov was found guilty of plotting terrorist acts in Crimea after Russia annexed the peninsula in 2014.

The Ukrainian was arrested in 2014 during a protest against the annexation. 

Sentsov was given a 20-year jail sentence after prosecutors said he was involved in two attempted arson attacks in the city of Simferopol, ordered by extremist Ukrainian group Right Sector. He denied the charges.

The trial was condemned by the US, EU and other film directors.

Sentsov started a hunger strike in May last year to press Russia to free 64 jailed Ukrainians whom he calls political prisoners. After more than 140 days he abandoned the strike to avoid being force fed.


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