KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine’s new leader said he called Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday to urge him to help halt fighting in eastern Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said he asked the Russian leader to “influence the other side so that they stop killing our people.” Zelenskiy’s call came a day after four Ukrainian soldiers were killed by pro-Russia insurgents.
Separatist rebels said they were returning fire after Ukrainian shelling of a school.
The Kremlin said in its take on the call that Putin emphasized that the Ukrainian troops should stop shelling residential areas since that results in civilian casualties.
The conflict in eastern Ukraine erupted in April 2014 after Russia’s annexation of Crimea and has killed more than 13,000 people. Germany and France helped broker a 2015 agreement signed in Minsk that helped reduce fighting, but clashes have continued and peace efforts have stalled.
Zelenskiy, a comedian without political experience, was elected in a landslide in April on promises to end the conflict in the east and tackle rampant official corruption. He said Wednesday he expects to speak to French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel later in the day to push for a meeting with them and Putin to search for a peaceful settlement in eastern Ukraine.
The Kremlin said Putin, on the call with Zelenskiy, underlined the need for Ukraine to implement the Minsk agreement, including its provision of granting a special status to Ukraine’s separatist regions.