Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, have discussed by phone preparations for a new summit in the so-called Normandy format and a possible prisoner swap, Zelenskiy’s office said on February 14.
“Volodymyr Zelenskiy and Vladimir Putin paid special attention to the process of releasing Ukrainian citizens being held in temporarily occupied territories of Donbas [districts controlled by Russia-backed separatists since April 2014], Crimea, and the Russian Federation,” the office said.
After his upset win in presidential elections last year, 41-year-old former comedian Zelenskiy managed to negotiate a long-awaited prisoner exchange with Russia that saw the two countries exchange dozens of prisoners in September and December.
The two met for the first time in Paris in December under the auspices of the Normandy peace format which also includes France and Germany besides Russia and Ukraine
The Kremlin’s relationship with Ukraine has been hostile ever since protests in Kyiv led to the overthrow of the nation’s pro-Russian leader Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014.
Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula shortly thereafter and backed separatist forces in eastern Ukraine, sparking an ongoing war in the Donbas that has resulted in more than 13,000 deaths.