Putin and Zelensky meet in Paris press to end the war in Ukraine

PARIS: Russian leader Vladimir Putin On Monday he met with his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr, for the first time at a Paris summit aimed at agreeing on measures to help end five years of conflict in eastern Ukraine.

A comprehensive peace agreement is not expected from the meeting, mediated by French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, but diplomats hope the summit will help strengthen confidence between the two men.

The four-party talks at the Elysee Palace are expected to be followed by an expected bilateral between the cunning former KGB agent Putin, in power for two decades, and former comedian Zelensky, who won the presidency this year.

Thousands of people have died and one million have fled their homes since pro-Russian militias in eastern Ukraine launched a bid for independence in 2014, initiating a conflict that deepened Russia's departure from west.

The separatists took control of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions shortly after Russia's annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea.

The issue of Crimea, whose seizure gave Putin an increase in popularity in the country but led to the imposition of international sanctions against Moscow, is not on the table at this summit.

The objectives of the meeting include agreeing to dissolve the illegal militias, the departure of foreign fighters from Donetsk and Lugansk and Ukraine to regain control of their border with Russia, according to a French presidential source.

It is also key to agree a calendar for local municipal elections to be held in Donetsk and Lugansk under Ukrainian law, with the two regions enjoying a special status, an idea known as the Steinmeier Formula.

For the summit meeting to be meaningful, it should have a result, and the result should be in the Steinmeier Formula, said Gerhard Mangott, professor of international relations at the University of Innsbruck in Austria.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko, before the meeting reaffirmed his country's key demands for a total and permanent ceasefire, our control over the borders of a unitary and indivisible state, disarmament and dismantling of groups illegal armed, local elections in accordance with our legislation.

The Kremlin has sent signals that he is ready to work with Zelensky, whom Putin described as sympathetic and sincere.

But the Russian leader will not want to return empty-handed either and will push for sanctions to be relieved.

German Chancellor Heiko Maas told the Funke newspaper group that we have to do everything possible ... to advance the Ukrainian peace process, and described the conflict as a suppurating wound in Europe.

Maas praised Zelensky for bringing new impetus to the talks, adding that to move forward in the next difficult steps, Russia also needs to act.

The problem of trust between the parties remains, said the French presidential source, who asked not to be identified by name. This must be created before we can move forward.

Monday's summit is the first of its kind in three years and seeks to implement agreements signed in Minsk in 2015 that require the withdrawal of heavy weapons, the restoration of control of Kiev over its borders, greater autonomy for Donetsk and Lugansk, and the holding local elections.

The summit is a hugely delicate event for everyone involved, but particularly for Zelensky, who is under pressure not to give ground to the Kremlin.

Around 200 protesters spent the night in tents outside the office of the Ukrainian president, seeking to pressure Zelensky not to capitulate to his Russian counterpart.

The Ukrainian leader, who came to power after starring in a comedy show about a school teacher who suddenly becomes president, took a realistic tone before the talks.

I want to return with concrete results, but we understand that we cannot have everything. The meeting is already a victory. Since 2016, there has been no dialogue.

For Macron, the summit is a centerpiece of an increasingly daring foreign policy that is driving despite problems at home, where transport workers have been on strike for days in a dispute over pension reforms.

Macron, who surprised NATO Allied last month by declaring that the alliance had brain death, he made clear his belief that Europe needs a strategic partnership with Russia.

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