Zelensky says he is ready to discuss Donbas with Putin

Amid warnings from Western countries about the buildup of Russian troops near Ukraine's borders, President Volodymyr Zelensky called for talks with Russia. "For eight years in a row, we are afraid to admit to ourselves: we will not stop the war without direct negotiations with the Russian Federation ... Let's put an end to this issue," Zelensky said in an address to the Ukrainian Parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, on Wednesday, December 1. He also noted that he was not afraid of a "direct dialogue" with the Russian Federation on the Donbas and urged to fight for Ukrainian territories "by all means."

Opening the speech, Zelensky recalled that 30 years ago, on December 1, 1991, a referendum was held in Ukraine, following which the independence of the Soviet republic was supported by residents of all regions, including Crimea and the Donbas.

The first and so far the only personal meeting of Zelensky with Russian President Vladimir Putin was in December 2019 in Paris during the Normandy format summit. Since then, the Ukrainian side has repeatedly proposed to hold another summit but has not received Moscow's consent. Former Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev in his article in the newspaper Kommersant called the contacts with the current Ukrainian leadership "meaningless".

In his speech, Zelensky did not mention the buildup of Russian troops near the Ukrainian borders, but called the Ukrainian army "the best in the world." The President listed Kyiv’s numerous defense initiatives: from the construction of a military plant for production of combat drones, a missile program, to the creation of cyber troops and the construction of ships and boats for the Ukrainian Navy in cooperation with NATO countries - Turkey and France. Zelensky said that in 2022 Ukraine plans to spend more than 320 billion hryvnias on defense, which is about 12 billion US dollars. This is a new record for Ukraine, which has been increasing defense spending for several years in a row. Inflation in Ukraine by the end of the year may exceed 10 percent.

Speaking about international support, Zelensky said he knew "which of the European countries support Ukraine" and who "just pretends to support."

Most of Zelensky's message was devoted to the situation inside the country, which the President assessed positively. He praised, among other things, the way the government is tackling the coronavirus pandemic by reporting 24 million COVID-19 vaccinations. At the same time, the Ukrainian President did not mention the fact that Ukraine is one of the leaders in Europe in COVID-19 cases and the number of deaths.

Zelensky also did not mention the alleged possible coup attempt in the country, which he mentioned the other day, speaking to reporters. He assured that he would continue the fight against the oligarchs.

  Zelensky, Putin, Donbas

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