Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, have discussed by phone preparations for a new summit in the so-called Normandy format and a possible prisoner swap, Zelenskiy’s office said on February 14.
“Volodymyr Zelenskiy and Vladimir Putin paid special attention to the process of releasing Ukrainian citizens being held in temporarily occupied territories of Donbas [districts controlled by Russia-backed separatists since April 2014], Crimea, and the Russian Federation,” the office said.
After his upset win in presidential elections last year, 41-year-old former comedian Zelenskiy managed to negotiate a long-awaited prisoner exchange with Russia that saw the two countries exchange dozens of prisoners in September and December.
The two met for the first time in Paris in December under the auspices of the Normandy peace format which also includes France and Germany besides Russia and Ukraine.
Meanwhile, the Kremlin said on February 14 that during the talks, Putin “directly” asked Zelenskiy if Kyiv plans to fully comply with the 2015 Minsk peace agreement — a peace plan that was brokered by France and Germany in the Belarusian capital and set a series of cease-fires in eastern Ukraine which have generally failed to hold.
“The Russian President stressed the importance of the full and unconditional fulfillment of all measures and decisions made in Minsk and adopted at the Normandy summits, including the one held in Paris on December 9, 2019… Vladimir Putin directly asked if Kyiv intends to really implement the Minsk agreements,” The Kremlin’s statement said.
The Kremlin’s relationship with Ukraine has been hostile ever since protests in Kyiv led to the overthrow of the nation’s pro-Russian leader Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014.
Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula shortly thereafter and backed separatist forces in eastern Ukraine, sparking an ongoing war in the Donbas that has resulted in more than 13,000 deaths.