All news

Zelensky vows his mission as president is to stop war in Donbass

The Ukrainian president stated that he understood that some citizens living in the uncontrolled territories in Donbass could feel that they are Ukrainians, while some of them might not
Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky EPA-EFE/STEPAN FRANKO
Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky

KIEV, October 10. /TASS/. Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky declared on Thursday that his mission as the head of state was to put an end to the war in Donbass.

"My key goal is that I want to stop the war, I believe this is my mission," Zelensky told reporters in Kiev.

Zelensky stated that he understood that some citizens living in the uncontrolled territories in Donbass could feel that they are Ukrainians, while some of them might not.

"If people in Donbass think that they are not Ukrainians, I cannot get into their brain. Those who feel that they are Ukrainians should know that we won’t leave them and we won’t abandon them," Zelensky said.

The president stressed that these people should have a chance to "come back to Ukraine."

Meeting with Putin not on the agenda

According to Zelensky, the issue of Donbass conflict could be discussed in two formats, either at the Normandy Four summit or at a personal meeting with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, but the latter is not planned.

"Now we are only talking about the Normandy format. <...>We need to look into each other’s eyes, to understand who wants what, what the real steps are and when and how we can end the war. We want this very much. If you are keen on this too, let’s meet. We can meet in two formats — as part of the Normandy Four and at a direct meeting with the Russian president. No one is talking about the meeting with the Russian president because everyone is against it," Zelensky said.

The Ukrainian leader did not elaborate though who exactly was against his meeting with Putin.

New prisoner swap

Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky pointed out that he was ready to continue direct talks with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to achieve a deal on a new prisoner swap.

"Another [format] has worked, namely direct talks with the Russian president. I’m ready for direct talks on bringing our people home and on a swap," the Ukrainian leader told the press marathon in Kiev.

According to Zelensky, now there are three lists for the next swap. "We should discuss the first one only with Russia," Zelensky said, noting that Crimean citizens were also on it. "The second one includes people, who are in Donbass. The third list is the most complicated one. These are people, whose presence has not been confirmed by Donbass," he said.

"We are ready for the first two tracks even tomorrow," Zelensky said. "These lists have been prepared by us. We are ready. Some of these lists have already been discussed in the Minsk format."

On September 7, Moscow and Kiev swapped prisoners under the ‘35 for 35’ formula. Preparations for the prisoner swap intensified after Vladimir Zelensky had been elected Ukraine’s president.

Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on October 4 that Russia sought to carry out an all-for-all prisoner swap with Ukraine and an effort to arrange it was continuing. However, on October 7, Head of the Russian Center for Current Politics Alexei Chesnakov, who is close to the talks on the Ukrainian settlement, stated that no prisoner swaps between Ukraine and Russia had been planned.

Crimean issue

The Ukrainian leader plans to raise the issue of Crimea at the Normandy Four summit since he sees no other venue where to discuss this. "For me, the Normandy format is a chance to discuss the issue of returning Crimea because now there is no place to discuss this issue other than with our Western partners," Zelensky told reporters.

Zelensky said on Wednesday that Ukraine was determined to get Crimea back with the helping hand of its international partners, but in this process there was no equivalent to the Steinmeier formula, which outlined the solutions for Donbass conflict. The Ukrainian leader has described the Crimean issue as a "complicated story."

The Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol, a city with a special status on the Crimean Peninsula where most residents are ethnic Russians, refused to recognize the legitimacy of the authorities that came to power amid riots during the February 2014 coup in Ukraine.

Crimea and Sevastopol adopted declarations of independence on March 11, 2014. They held a referendum on March 16, 2014, in which 96.77% of Crimeans and 95.6% of Sevastopol voters chose to secede from Ukraine and join Russia. President Vladimir Putin signed the reunification treaty on March 18, 2014, and the Federal Assembly (legislature) ratified it on March 21, 2014. Despite the convincing results of the referendum, Kiev refused to recognize Crimea as part of Russia. The United States and the European Union slapped economic sanctions in 2014.

Disengagement in Donbass

The Ukrainian president has acknowledged that it would be impossible to hold a summit of the Normandy Quartet without disengagement in Donbass.

"No disengagement — no Normandy Quartet summit. That’s all. Now it depends on us, too," he told the media.

He warned that if outsiders begin to arrive in the areas of planned disengagement in attempts to prevent it, the pullback will not take place.

"As long as various people on either side who are opposed to disengagement will be coming there to fire casual shots, no disengagement will take place," Zelensky said.

Earlier, Ukrainian police detained two radicals at the roadblock Kremennaya, the Lugansk Region. The incident took place when a convoy of 25 vehicles was stopped while trying to enter the community Zolotoye, where the pullback of conflicting forces was scheduled to begin. During the incident a policeman fired a warning shot in the air and another suffered bodily injuries when hit by a car. Two radicals were detained.

After the clash some of the cars managed to proceed towards Zolotoye. The radicals said their aim was to prevent the disengagement of forces, because in their opinion it was tantamount to surrender of Ukrainian territories.

At the latest meeting of the Contact Group on October 1 the conflicting parties agreed to start the disengagement of forces in Zolotoye and Petrovskoye. As the OSCE Special Representative for Ukraine Martin Sajdik said, the disengagement was to begin on October 7. However, the pullback failed to take place either on October 7 or on a later date, October 9.