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World

Ukraine leader calls for summit over escalating conflict

  • "The meeting is being prepared. It should take place," Zelensky said of the planned summit.
09 Mar 2021

KIEV: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Tuesday called for a summit with European countries and floated a direct meeting with Russian leader Vladimir Putin to temper fresh fighting with Moscow-backed separatists.

A recent uptick in fighting in the east has undermined a ceasefire brokered last year that spurred hopes for a resolution to the conflict, sparked in 2014 after Russia annexed Crimea.

"The meeting is being prepared. It should take place," Zelensky said of the planned summit.

Russia, Germany and France comprise the Normandy format, a talking shop intended to help resolve the conflict that last met in 2019 shortly after Zelensky was elected.

Should the summit fail to materialise, Zelensky said he would be ready to meet the French, German and Russian leaders individually.

This would represent the first one-to-one meeting between Zelensky and Putin since the Ukrainian leader was elected in 2019 on a promise to end the war.

Observers say the latest escalation could be a Kremlin response to Ukrainian sanctions last month against powerful pro-Russian lawmaker Viktor Medvedchuk, an ally of Putin.

"We understand that there are consequences. We understand that the number of armed provocations at the front has increased," the Ukrainian leader told reporters on Tuesday.

Eight Ukrainian servicemen have been killed in clashes with separatist fighters since flighting flared mid-February.

Ukraine and its Western allies accuse Russia of sending troops and arms to support the separatists, claims Moscow denies.

The Kremlin last week blamed the escalation on Ukrainian forces and said it was "deeply concerned by growing tensions" on the frontline.

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