Saturday 06 June 2020
News ID: 71559
Publish Date: 11 October 2019 - 22:05

KIEV (AFP) -- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday threatened to call off a summit with Russian leader Vladimir Putin if all sides do not agree on plans to pull out troops from the east.
The country's comedian-turned-leader is gearing up to hold talks with Putin in Paris in an effort to revive a peace process to end the five-year separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine.
Those efforts appeared to have recently stalled as the Kiev forces and the separatists have so far both failed to pull back troops from the frontline.
"If there is no pullback (of troops) there is no Normandy summit," Zelensky told reporters, referring to talks with Putin that would be hosted by France President Emmanuel Macron and also involve German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
But later, in a response to a question from AFP, he said he still hoped such talks would take place by the end of the year. A date could be announced as early as next week, he said.
Speaking at a trendy food court during his first major news conference since taking office in May, Zelensky, 41, said Russia should help draw back Kremlin-backed separatist troops.
"They should act as guarantors -- they are party to the Minsk process," Zelensky said during the more than 12-hour event that took place over burgers and pizza at Kyiv Food Market.
In the runup to the planned summit, Ukrainian, Russian and separatist negotiators agreed on a roadmap that envisages special status for separatist territories if they conduct free and fair elections under the Ukrainian constitution.
But the plan sparked anger in Ukraine, with critics saying the proposal favours Russia.
Over the weekend around 10,000 people, including Zelensky's predecessor Petro Poroshenko, protested in Kiev against the peace plan in the first major demonstrations against Zelensky's policies.
Ultra-nationalists have been particularly critical of Zelensky's peace plan and some war veterans have threatened to resist his orders in the east.
The president appeared to target them on Thursday, saying that "various people" from both sides including Ukraine's war veterans did not want the pullback of troops to go ahead.
"If there are veterans there (in the east)... if they arrived and are armed then that's not right," he said.

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