Paris, Dec 9 (AFP/APP): Russian leader Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky arrived in Paris for summit talks Monday seen as a critical opportunity to take steps to 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 bolster trust between the two men.
They were to hold talks individually with the EU’s two key leaders before a four-way summit, followed by a hotly-awaited bilateral between wily ex-KGB agent Putin, in power for two decades, and ex-comedian Zelensky who won the presidency this year.
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.
The separatists seized control of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions shortly after Russia’s annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea.