Ukraine’s president orders aide to arrange talks with Putin

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ANKARA

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has ordered his key adviser to arrange talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

According to the Ukrainian news agency Ukrinform, Zelensky said he tasked Andriy Yermak, the head of the president’s office, with the job.

“I really made an offer — and you heard it — to meet in Donbas, and the Russian president confirmed his desire to meet, but he invited me to meet in Moscow,” said Zelensky, according to Ukrinform. 

Zelensky said the important thing is to be able to meet and negotiate, and the place of the meeting is “just a detail.”

After weeks of rising tensions, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu announced Thursday that Moscow would start withdrawing its troops from the border with Ukraine.

The move came after a weeks-long war of words in which Kyiv and the country’s breakaway regions accused each other of violating the truce. Ukraine also accused Russia of sending troops to the border, while Moscow says its moves were in response to “Kyiv’s provocative actions,” saying its western neighbor is preparing an offensive aimed at securing a military solution to the conflict with the possibility of hostilities on the border.

Zelensky welcomed the move, saying “the reduction of troops proportionally reduces tensions.” 

“Ukraine is always vigilant yet welcomes any steps to decrease the military presence and deescalate the situation in Donbas. Ukraine seeks peace. Grateful to international partners for their support,” he said on Twitter.

Ukraine has been plagued by conflict in its eastern regions since March 2014, following Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea.

Fighting between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine has left more than 13,000 people dead, according to the UN.

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