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Ukraine ready for peace: Zelenskiy

Nick Connolly
July 5, 2019

With conflict simmering in the east, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy is hoping to secure a political solution to end a separatist insurgency. He told DW that he has the support of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy looks at the front line position from a shelter as he visits the war-hit Luhansk region, eastern Ukraine
Image: picture alliance/AP Photo

Eastern Ukraine hopes for peace

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Friday welcomed the withdrawal of Ukrainian and separatist forces from front line positions in Stanitsa Luhanska in eastern Ukraine, marking a new step towards ending the conflict.

In the eastern Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk, Zelenskiy told DW that his government is committed to finding a political solution to the conflict, which has killed more than 10,000 people and displaced millions more. DW's Nicholas Connolly caught up with Zelenskiy in Kramatorsk.

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'Waiting for a signal'

DW: We've seen both sides drawing back their positions in Stanitsa Luhanska. What are the next steps to peace?  

Volodymyr Zelenskiy: The next step will be further talks in Minsk as part of the Trilateral Contact Group to agree on dismantling the concrete defenses in place on both sides. At the last meeting, our side was ready to take everything down in the space of a day. We did everything we could to make that happen. The other side told us they need eight or 10 days to do the same.

We are waiting for a signal from their side so it can happen simultaneously. The next question we will address — I hope — will be an exchange of prisoners of war.

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You say you want to engage with the Ukrainians living in separatist-held territory?

We need to talk to them all the time and we are already doing that. We are sending signals to them, we are telling them that we are all Ukrainians, we are all the same people. We are prepared to do everything required by the Minsk agreements. You know very well that neither I nor my team signed the Minsk agreements. But we are prepared to follow all the steps needed to implement the agreements in order to finally achieve peace.

But can you really reach the people in Donetsk and Luhansk? 

It's a difficult question. I think many of them are listening to us. I believe in that or at least I really want to believe in that. We will do as much as we can to reach them, as long as it takes. 

Read more: Germany's Merkel backs Ukraine's Zelenskiy in Russia dispute

Merkel's 'full support'

Does Europe still support Ukraine? After all, Russia has been allowed back into the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe.

I have spoken to Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron of France and just recently with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. All of them told me that we have their full support. 

I really hope that going forward we'll see real deeds and not just words of support for Ukraine. What else can we do? 

If we want to end this war by diplomatic means, which we really want to do, we have no other options. I hope that the other side will not undermine the measures we have already agreed to. We have agreed that the first meeting after a long period of silence will be in the Normandy format on July 12.

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Ukraine: New hope for peace?