D.he actor Volodymyr Selenskyj, who won the presidential election in 2019 as a political career changer with a record result, took up his post as “Peace President”. The announcement that he would end the positional warfare against Russian and local pro-Russian fighters in eastern Ukraine, which had been simmering for years, was probably his most important campaign promise. But one side’s declarations of peace are rarely enough to end a war. The situation has even worsened this month due to the deployment of Russian troops around Ukraine.
Political correspondent for Poland, Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania based in Warsaw.
The venue is not just the Donbass region: on Saturday, the Moscow Ministry of Defense reported that 15 ships of the Caspian fleet, including eight landing craft, had entered the Black Sea through the Kerch Strait to hold maneuvers there. At the same time, Moscow has declared the Kerch Strait unilaterally closed from next Saturday; this applies to “military and other state ships”, including Ukraine. In addition, a Ukrainian consul was briefly arrested in St. Petersburg, allegedly for espionage; he has to leave the country by Thursday. Ukraine responded by expelling a Russian diplomat.
Soon after his election, Zelenskyi saw that he had little choice but to do what his predecessor Petro Poroshenko had done: repeatedly wearing a bulletproof vest to visit the soldiers in the trenches of the Donbass region to keep the troops behind to strengthen and demonstrate readiness to defend the public at home, in Russia and around the world. He has had two successes in his Donbass policy so far: from July 2020 onwards, the ceasefire in the east was temporarily better observed than before, and the Ukraine and the pro-Russian fighters exchanged hundreds of prisoners. But this year the shooting in Donbass is more violent again, 25 soldiers were killed on the Ukrainian side alone, and the basic questions about the future of the divided Donbass region have come to a standstill. Russia’s new threatening gestures have further changed the situation. They have led to expressions of solidarity from Europe and America. Zelensky apparently sees this as an opportunity for a political-diplomatic offensive.
Zelenskyj calls for a summit
Before his visit to Paris on Friday, he said bluntly in interviews that the peace talks for Eastern Ukraine in Normandy format (Ukraine, Russia, France, Germany) “are standing still, very honestly”. He called for a new Quartet summit; the last so far took place in December 2019. At the same time, Selenskyj put the situation of his country in a European context. Russia has “about 80,000 soldiers on our eastern border and in the Crimea, adding 30,000 pro-Russian fighters and Russian official military in Donbass”, but it is not the time to be afraid: “Any attempt to expand aggression against Ukraine, would be a blow to the security of all of Europe. ”The Russian approach is“ pressure on democracy on our continent and the attempt to abolish the inviolability of borders in Europe and the right of nations to self-determination ”.
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