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26 Feb, 2024 09:05

Zelensky reveals Putin wanted Donbass ceasefire

Protecting the region from Kiev’s attacks was one of the key reasons for the Ukraine conflict, according to Moscow
Zelensky reveals Putin wanted Donbass ceasefire

Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky has acknowledged that his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, urged him to stop the hostilities in Donbass in 2019. He added that he had strong concerns at the time that diplomacy would freeze the conflict, but not resolve it.

Speaking at a press conference on Sunday, Zelensky gave an account of his face-to-face meeting with Putin in Paris in December 2019, which took place several months after he was elected.

According to Zelensky, he had a long conversation with Putin, who “constantly raised the issue of ceasefire.” The Ukrainian president said he told the Russian leader that it would not work out in the long run, noting that this turned out to be the case.

He recalled that while talking to Putin, he expressed his doubts about the Minsk agreements – which sought to end the hostilities in Donbass – “because... the withdrawal of troops along the line of contact does not work.”

He claimed that he had shown Putin data which proved that the progress was too little and too slow. “I showed him that we would spend 20 years pulling back troops.”

Zelensky said this means that the Donbass conflict would have remained frozen for many years, adding that he and Putin had been “haggling” for a long time over the issue.

Brokered by Germany and France, the now-defunct 2014 and 2015 Minsk agreements were aimed at halting the hostilities in Donbass and give the regions of Donetsk and Lugansk special status within the Ukrainian state.

The 2019 meeting between Zelensky and Putin took place in the Normandy Format with the participation of the German and French leaders. At the time, the negotiations made some headway, with the sides reaching an agreement on the disengagement of troops in Donbass and prisoner exchanges.

However, Russia accused Ukraine of failing to implement the Minsk agreements, saying this was one of the key reasons for launching the military operation against Kiev. Former Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko has admitted that Kiev’s main goal was to use the ceasefire to buy time and “create powerful armed forces,” a position that was later echoed by former German Chancellor Angela Merkel and ex-French President Francois Hollande.

In autumn 2022, several months into the Ukraine conflict, the two Donbass regions and two other former Ukrainian territories voted overwhelmingly to join Russia in referendums.