Sunday, February 5, 2023

Putin, Zelenskiy discuss conflict in eastern Ukraine on eve of ceasefire

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MOSCOW/KYIV (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelenskiy discussed the conflict in eastern Ukraine and both expressed support for a ceasefire that starts on July 27, their offices said on Sunday.

Ukrainian, Russian and OSCE negotiators agreed on a full ceasefire between government forces and pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine from late July, putting on hold the military conflict that claimed more than 13,000 lives since 2014.

“The leaders agreed on the need for an urgent implementation of extra measures to support the ceasefire regime in Donbass,” Zelenskiy’s office said, referring to eastern Ukraine.

Zelenskiy came to power last year promising to end the conflict. Since then, Ukraine and Russia have implemented some confidence-building measures, including prisoner swaps and phased troop withdrawals in designated areas.

Putin told Zelenskiy in a phone call that Ukraine’s decision to hold regional elections in 2020 contradicts the Minsk peace accords aimed at resolving the conflict.

Kyiv plans to hold local elections in October across the country apart from breakaway Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

Zelenskiy’s office said the Ukrainian president told Putin that further steps were needed to free Ukrainian citizens being held in eastern Ukraine, Crimea and Russia.

Ukraine and Russia have been foes since 2014, when Moscow seized Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula and backed the rebellion in the east. Major combat ended with a ceasefire agreed in the Belarus capital Minsk in 2015, but sporadic clashes still regularly kill civilians, Ukrainian soldiers and separatists.

(Reporting by Andrey Ostroukh in Moscow and Natalia Zinets in Kyiv; Editing by Peter Graff)



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