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4 Jun, 2019 21:07

Ukraine’s Zelensky says he’s ready for talks with Russia and get close to NATO

Ukraine’s Zelensky says he’s ready for talks with Russia and get close to NATO

Comedian-turned-president, Volodymyr Zelensky, who earlier excluded the possibility of any negotiations with Russia, has said Ukraine is now eager to talk. But first Kiev wants to move closer to NATO participation.

“We are ready for negotiations with Russia; we are ready to fulfill the Minsk agreements [on the peaceful settlement of the conflict in Eastern Ukraine],” Zelensky said during a joint press conference with NATO chief, Jens Stoltenberg, in Brussels.

But before such talks begin, Ukraine “must be able to defend itself and become stronger economically, politically and militarily,” he added. Zelensky said after his election that he saw no possibility of negotiations with Moscow and called on the US to impose more sanctions.

The newly-inaugurated president said that he also wanted to give new momentum to Ukraine’s bid to join NATO because “the ongoing Russian armed aggression remains the main challenge to Euro-Atlantic security.”

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Ukraine applied to join NATO in 2008, but those plans were shelved by President Viktor Yanukovich, who came to power two years later. After the Maidan Revolution and the overthrow of Yanukovich in 2014, the new authorities in Kiev again made becoming a part of the bloc a foreign policy priority.

Last year, Ukraine was put on the list of NATO’s aspiring members, but European Commission head, Jean-Claude Juncker, famously said that it would take at least 20 or 25 years for Ukraine to actually join the alliance.

“We hope to restore dialogue between Ukraine and NATO on the level of states, governments and defense ministries,” he told Stoltenberg, adding that Ukraine would have to carry out reforms to comply with the standards of the US-led military block to make it happen.

During his campaign for office, Zelensky vowed to do everything possible to end the military conflict in Eastern Ukraine that started in reaction to the 2014 coup and cost more than 13,000 lives, according to UN estimations.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin said that he would have no problem talking with Zelensky. However, he hasn’t yet congratulated the new Ukrainian president on taking up the job, insisting that he would only do so after the Donbas conflict is solved and relations between Moscow and Kiev are normalized.

Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov earlier said that Putin and Zelensky may hold talks as part of the so-called Normandy format. Moscow has repeatedly stated that it’s not a party to the Eastern Ukrainian conflict, but its working to find the solution to it together with Germany, France, and Ukraine.

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