Russia’s Putin, new Ukrainian leader Zelensky meet for first time - GulfToday

Russia’s Putin, new Ukrainian leader Zelensky meet for first time

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Vladimir Putin, Emmanuel Macron, Angela Merkel and Volodymyr Zelenskiy attend a Normandy-format summit in Paris. Reuters

Russian leader Vladimir Putin on Monday met Ukranian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky for the first time, at a Paris summit aimed at agreeing measures to help end five years of conflict in the east of Ukraine.

No comprehensive peace deal is expected from the meeting — mediated by French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel — but diplomats hope the summit will help to build trust between the two men.

Four-way talks at the Elysee Palace were followed by the first ever bilateral meeting between wily ex-KGB agent Putin — in power for two decades — and ex-comedian Zelensky who won the presidency this year, Ukrainian and Russian presidential sources said.

The four leaders were due to meet again over dinner, before a joint news conference.

"The leaders have been discussing the draft statement and each clause is being discussed in a lively way," said Zelensky's deputy chief of staff Kyrylo Tymoshenko. "There is a working atmosphere and there is no problem," he added.

Thousands have been killed and one million have fled their homes since pro-Russia militias in eastern Ukraine launched a bid for independence in 2014 -- kicking off a conflict that deepened Russia's estrangement from the West.

Separatists seized control of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions shortly after Russia's annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea.

The issue of Crimea, whose seizure gave Putin a popularity boost at home but led to international sanctions being imposed against Moscow, is not on the table at this summit.