KYIV, Nov. 27 - President Volodymyr Zelenskiy spoke by phone with German Chancellor Angela Merkel to prepare for a four-way summit in Paris next month, Zelenskiy’s office said in a statement on Thursday.
The leaders of Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany meet in the so-called “Normandy” format on Dec. 9, to help end a conflict between Ukrainian troops and Russian-backed forces in eastern Ukraine that has killed more than 13,000 people.
Thousands of Ukrainians demonstrated in Kyiv last week to demand no "capitulation" to Moscow ahead of the Normandy summit.
Zelenskiy and Putin pair are due to meet for the first time since Zelenskiy’s election last April at French-hosted December 9 quadripartite talks which French and German leaders Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel will also attend.
The rally came even as relations between the states have thawed to a degree after Russia handed back three Ukrainian vessels seized off Moscow-annexed Crimea last year and with September having seen a large-scale prisoner exchange.
Ukraine and Russian-backed separatist have also agreed to stage phased troop withdrawals in three eastern frontline sectors -- Zelenskiy, who is more inclined to dialogue than predecessor Petro Poroshenko, has made a troop pullback a condition of having the French summit.
But a pre-summit roadmap thrashed out between Ukrainian, Russian and separatist negotiators envisaging special status for separatist territories if they conduct free and fair elections under the Ukrainian constitution has sparked anger in Ukraine.
"The actions of Zelenskiy and his team targeting troop withdrawals is a veritable capitulation. It's not normal," scolded Ioulia Nikolaienko, a 30-year-ol d painter attending the demonstration. (rt/ez)