“Mr. Putin, I am ready to go further and invite you to attend a meeting anywhere in the Donbas region of Ukraine, where there is war going on,” Zelensky said in a video released Tuesday evening.
In the Donbas region, fighting between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian government forces has continued since 2014.
So far this year, the conflict in eastern Ukraine Killed 30 Ukrainian soldiers, compared to 50 throughout 2020. According to European Union estimates, more than 100,000 Russian soldiers are now stationed along the Ukrainian border, according to Agence France-Presse.
According to a statement by Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Koliba, Russian snipers are shooting at Ukrainian soldiers in order to provoke – provocations he asks his soldiers to “not respond to”.
“Within a week, they will have a combined force of more than 120,000 soldiers,” Koliba said during a digital press conference, calling for new Western sanctions to deter Moscow from “further escalation,” according to Reuters.
Kuliba mentions that Ukraine wants a diplomatic solution to the conflict and that he requested to meet his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov several months ago, but Lavrov did not accept the outstretched hand.
On Tuesday, Russia held Naval exercises in the Black Sea in the region with the Air Force, according to Russian news agency Interfax.
Russia has also imposed temporary restrictions on air movement over parts of the Crimea and the Black Sea, as well as restrictions on the right to sail in Russian territorial waters for foreign military ships and other ships from April 24 to October 31.
According to Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, Ukraine is trying to destabilize the situation in Donetsk. He also stated that the United States and NATO were involved in “provocative activities” in the Black Sea, which forced Russia to carry out strategic deterrence maneuvers, according to Interfax.
“The Ukrainian political military leadership continues to walk down a devastating road in an attempt to destabilize the situation in Donetsk,” he said during a meeting of the Ministry of Defense on Tuesday.
According to Agence France-Presse, the parties to the conflict, including international observers, met on Tuesday to discuss the tense situation along the border. A spokesperson for the Ukrainian delegation said after the meeting that the parties had made progress in trying to restore the ceasefire reached in July 2020.
The Kiev government has been fighting separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014. The conflict has claimed more than 13,000 lives.