Mon, 22 Jul 2019

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy is expected to make his first visits to France and Germany as head of state this week, with the European capitals seeking progress on reforms in Ukraine and the country's conflict with Russia-backed separatists.

Zelenskiy is set to hold talks with French President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace on June 17.

The next day, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier is to receive his Ukrainian counterpart at Berlin's Bellevue Palace.

A comic actor with no previous political experience, Zelenskiy beat incumbent Petro Poroshenko by a large margin in an April 21 presidential runoff. He was inaugurated as president on May 20.

The French presidency has said that Macron's upcoming encounter with Zelenskiy will offer a chance to 'address the support of France for the reform program desired by the new president of Ukraine.'

It said the discussions would also look at the 'chances of solving the conflict" in eastern Ukraine with the support of Paris and Berlin.

Fighting between government forces and the separatists in the eastern Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk has killed some 13,000 people since April 2014, shortly after Russia seized control of Ukraine's Crimea region.

France and Germany, along with Ukraine and Russia, are part of the so-called 'Normandy format' of countries seeking a resolution to the war.

The format has not held talks in two years, and cease-fire deals announced as part of the Minsk accords in September 2014 and February 2015 have failed to hold.

In addition to the conflict in the east and Russia's occupation of the Crimean Peninsula, Ukraine faces entrenched corruption and major economic hurdles.

Earlier this month, Zelenskiy made his first foreign trip as president to EU and NATO headquarters in Brussels.

During the visit, he reaffirmed Ukraine's course toward Euro-Atlantic integration, and vowed that under his leadership the country would implement reforms and intensify the fight against corruption.

He also pressed the bloc to step up pressure on Russia to end the war in Ukraine's east.

Macron hosted both Zelenskiy and Poroshenko for separate talks on April 12 ahead of their electoral runoff.

The same day in Berlin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel met with Poroshenko but not Zelenskiy.

With reporting by AFP

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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