Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday called for direct negotiations with Russia to end an eight-year war with pro-Russian separatists in the east of his country.
“We must speak the truth that we cannot end the war without direct talks with Russia,” Zelensky said during an annual address to lawmakers.
His comments followed the Foreign Ministry saying on Tuesday that Russia has concentrated 115,000 troops in Ukraine, in the Crimean peninsula, which Moscow annexed in 2014, and in two eastern regions occupied by pro-Russian separatist fighters.
“Let’s be honest, the war in Donbass has been going on for eight years. Eight years since Russia annexed Crimea, “Zelensky said, adding that he was” not afraid “to speak directly to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“We must speak out, knowing that we have a strong and powerful army,” he added.
Zelensky during his speech also called on Ukrainian politicians to remain united in the face of Russian aggression.
Ukraine and its western allies accuse Moscow of sending troops and weapons across the border to support the separatists who forged two states in the east, but Moscow has denied those claims.
The conflict in the east has claimed more than 13,000 lives.