'Don't trust Putin': Ex-Ukraine Prez warns ahead of Russian Federation talks

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during a joint press conference at the Chancellery in Berlin.

It is a mechanism suggesting the gradual implementation of the 2015 Minsk agreement to stop conflict in eastern Ukraine, such as assigning wider autonomy to Donetsk and Lugansk regions of Ukraine and holding local elections under Kiev's supervision.

Zelenskiy will have to tread carefully, as he may have lost a key ally in the United States, as longstanding bipartisan American support for Kyiv is called into question by Donald Trump's impeachment scandal.

Their plan B, he said, could require walling off Ukraine from Russian Federation in the manner of Israel.

Global monitors recorded hundreds of explosions and bursts of small arms fire on the contact line in east Ukraine as France prepared to host the first peace summit on the war in three years. Now that support is increasingly in doubt, after the Trump administration froze military aid earlier this year and is increasingly focused on Trump's re-election bid. "Friends, we can not make any concessions to Putin until the last sliver of Ukrainian land is free", Poroshenko said at the rally.

Anxious that Mr. Zelensky might succumb to Mr. Putin's powers of persuasion, as President Trump did in Helsinki in July previous year, three opposition groups in Ukraine issued a manifesto ahead of the Paris meeting drawing six "red lines" that should not be crossed. FILE In this file photo taken on Monday, Oct. 14, 2019, Ukrainian army veterans attend a rally marking Defense of the Homeland Day in center Kyiv, Ukraine. They were quickly whisked away by police.

Zelensky expressed optimism that he could negotiate a cease-fire and disarmament in the Donbas region, his two primary short-term objectives, but his predecessor, Petro Poroshenko, issued a public warning over the weekend that Putin cannot be trusted and will never honor the de-escalation spirit of the Minsk accords. Mr Zelenskiy says Ukraine must get control of its border first before local elections are held.

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French officials say potential changes to the timeline will be discussed Monday, but stressed that the summit is aimed at fulfilling the Minsk accord - not writing a new peace deal.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell demurred when asked if he believed Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election. Monday's summit is the first involving Zelenskiy and Macron, who has sought to improve relations with Russian Federation.

In the years since, Ukrainian soldiers and Russia-backed separatists have continued to exchange fire across First World War-style trenches along a front line that slices through eastern Ukraine. Russian Federation has also released three Ukrainian navy ships seized a year ago.

"There are expectations that three guarantors of the Minsk agreements will explain to Zelensky that the agreements can't be revised", Natalya Nikonorova, foreign minister of the separatists' unrecognized Donetsk People's Republic, was quoted Monday in Russian daily Kommersant as saying. In this context, if Russian Federation and Ukraine can resolve the conflict peacefully, there will be a breakthrough for easing the tensions among the major powers, and contribute to the improvement of the economic and security situations in Europe.

But while many in Moscow sympathize with Zelensky's political predicament, there is little appetite for Russian Federation to help relieve the Ukrainian president's domestic pressure by offering him major concessions.

From Moscow's perspective, it is becoming harder for Putin to justify the Ukraine war's costs to disenchanted Russians and for the first time since 2014, the Kremlin appears interested in dialling down the conflict, but not at the expense of relinquishing its so-called "sphere of influence" over countries that once made up the Soviet Union.

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