French President Emmanuel Macron, right, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy hold a press conference following their meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris Friday April 16, 2021. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is in Paris for talks with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel amid his country's growing tensions with neighboring Russia. (ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/POOL VIA AP)
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Friday pressed for four-way peace negotiations that included Russian President Vladimir Putin to ease tensions following the build-up of Russian troops along their shared border.
Zelenskiy spoke during a visit to Paris, where he held talks with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel as part of a diplomatic push to pressure Russia to pull back its forces and restore a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine.
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Kyiv and Moscow have traded blame for rising clashes in the eastern Donbass region, where Ukrainian troops have battled Russian-backed forces in a conflict that Kyiv says has killed 14,000 people since 2014.
Asked about Kyiv's request to join NATO and the European Union, a French presidential adviser said it was an issue to be discussed collectively within these organizations
The standoff has fueled tensions between Moscow and US President Joe Biden's administration, which imposed a new round of sanctions on Russia this week that prompted Moscow to retaliate with its own measures on Friday.
Zelenskiy pressed for talks in the so-called "Normandy" format between the leaders of Russia, Germany, France and Ukraine that have not taken place since December 2019.
"I'm determined for the four of us to connect," Zelenskiy told reporters.
Zelenskiy is also lobbying NATO member states to speed up Ukraine's entry into the military alliance, a prospect that is fiercely resisted by Moscow.
Asked about Kyiv's request to join NATO and the European Union, a French presidential adviser said it was an issue to be discussed collectively within these organizations.
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"The heart of the exchange was how France could help to favor de-escalation," the official said.
In a statement after the meeting, France, Germany and Ukraine urged Russia to pull back its troops.
The Kremlin earlier said the fighting in eastern Ukraine had lessened but it was monitoring the situation closely.
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