Ukrainian leader discusses tensions between Russia and US lawmakers | National policy

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KYIV, Ukraine (AP) – The Ukrainian president on Friday held a video call with 20 U.S. senators and congressmen amid tensions with Russia, which recently fueled fears of a possible invasion by massing troops near the Ukrainian border.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy spoke with senators and congressmen about the build-up of Russian troops and the situation in the war-torn east of his country, according to Zelenskyy’s office. Russian-backed rebels have been fighting Ukrainian forces in eastern Ukraine since 2014.

A statement from the president’s office described “the importance of involving the United States in the process of a peaceful settlement” to the conflict in eastern Ukraine, an area known as Donbass.

“Now, more than ever, it is not the words that count, but the decisive actions,” Zelenskyy said in the statement. “My goal is to stop the bloodshed in eastern Ukraine. It is impossible to imagine security in Europe without ending the war in Donbass. “

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Zelenskyy and lawmakers also discussed the application of additional sanctions to Russia, Washington’s support for Kiev’s “Euro-Atlantic aspirations” and Ukraine’s prospects for NATO membership.

Russia and Ukraine have grappled with a bitter struggle since Moscow annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014 and supported the separatist insurgency that has since claimed more than 14,000 lives.

A 2015 peace deal, brokered by France and Germany, ended large-scale hostilities in the Donbass, but efforts to achieve a political settlement of the conflict have so far failed.

Tensions between Russia and Ukraine have rekindled the deployment of troops near the Ukrainian border. Ukrainian and Western authorities feared this indicated invasion plans, but the Kremlin denied that intention.

Instead, Moscow blamed Kiev for its own troop build-up in the east, saying the Ukrainian military may consider reclaiming rebel-held areas forcibly.

Russian President Vladimir Putin also lobbied the United States for guarantees that would prevent NATO from expanding east to Ukraine. The Western alliance and Ukraine bristled at the request.

In his meeting with US lawmakers and senators, Zelenskyy said “no third country can have a say in Ukraine’s integration into NATO.”

“No Ukraine deals without Ukraine,” he said.

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