International

Ukrainian president calls on Putin to meet amid tensions

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky pressed Russian President Vladimir Putin to meet with him amid mounting tensions between their two countries.

Zelensky and Putin have exchanged blame over who is behind rising clashes with pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine and a military buildup by Moscow on its side of the border. But Zelensky said he was still willing to meet with his Russian counterpart in the Donbass region, where fighting is ongoing.

"Mr. Putin, I am ready to go even further and invite you to meet anywhere in the Ukrainian Donbass, where there is a war," Zelensky said in a Tuesday video, warning that his country is "ready for war."

The comments marked the most direct outreach from either of the two leaders amid the recent spike in tensions.

Ukraine has been fighting with the separatists since 2014, the same year that Russia invaded and annexed the Crimean Peninsula, a move that led to a wave of international rebukes and Moscow's expulsion from the then-Group of Eight.

Zelensky has pressed Western nations to show that they support Ukraine against Russia, noting Tuesday that his country serves as a bulwark against Russian aggression against other European nations. 

"Our citizens need clear signals that in the eighth year of the war, a country that is a shield for Europe at the cost of its lives, will receive support not just as partners, from the stands, but as players on the same team, directly on the field, shoulder to shoulder," Zelensky said, according to a translation from Reuters

The U.S. last week slapped a slew of sanctions on Russia over its "malign" behavior, including election meddling and its actions in Ukraine, and expelled 10 Russian diplomats. The United Kingdom also summoned the Russian ambassador in London, and Zelensky met last week with the leaders of France and Germany to discuss the situation.

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