Putin first spoke on the phone with Zelensky
Russian President Vladimir Putin had a telephone conversation with Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky. This was reported to journalists by Putin’s Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov, his words lead «RIA Novosti». The conversation took place at the initiative of the Ukrainian side, the Kremlin said. This was the first conversation between the two heads of state after Zelensky was elected President of Ukraine. Putin did not congratulate Zelensky on taking office.
The two leaders discussed the possibility of working in the Normandy format. «The issues of the settlement in the South-East of Ukraine and joint work on the return of persons held on both sides were discussed,» Peskov said. Putin and Zelensky agreed to continue this work «at the level of experts».Zelensky previously said that the parties to the conflict in the Donbas are discussing the exchange of prisoners of war, but this is hampered by the mismatch of the lists of the parties. The last exchange between Kyiv and Donbas took place at the end of December 2017: 73 people were transferred to the self – proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic, 165-to Donetsk, 74 people returned to Ukraine. After that, the parties tried to agree on a new exchange, but this was prevented by the murder of the head of the DPR Alexander Zakharchenko in August 2018, said in an interview with the BBC Pro-Russian Ukrainian politician Viktor Medvedchuk. He specified that it was including about transfer to Kyiv of the Ukrainian Director Oleg Sentsov sentenced in Russia to 20 years of a colony on a charge of the creation of the terrorist group in the Crimea.
The Ukrainian President on 8 July suggested Putin hold talks in Minsk with the participation of the President of the United States Donald trump, Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel, President of France Emmanuel Macron and the UK premiere of Theresa May. «We will discuss whose Crimea and who is not there in the Donbas,» he said. The Ukrainian President expressed hope that the President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko will be ready to provide a platform for dialogue.
Putin, in turn, recalled that Russia has never refused any of the proposed formats of meetings, including the expansion of the «Normandy format», which involves the participation of France and Germany in the negotiations. He added that the meeting proposed by Zelensky should be well prepared. In addition, Ukraine must first hold elections to the Verkhovna Rada and a government must be formed. «Thirdly, – added Putin, – I don’t know how to respond [to the invitation Zelensky] other participants in the proposed format.»