Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Saturday sought a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin to resolve the crisis between the two countries, reported The Associated Press.
“I don’t know what the president of the Russian Federation wants, so I am proposing a meeting,” Zelenskyy said at the Munich Security Conference in Germany. “Ukraine will continue to follow only the diplomatic path for the sake of a peaceful settlement.”
Russia is yet to respond to the proposal.
Since early this year, Russia has amassed over 1 lakh troops at the Ukrainian border. Reports also said that 30,000 more are engaged in exercises in Belarus, close to its border with Ukraine.
The two countries have been engaged in a conflict since 2014 when Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and backed separatist rebellions in the country’s eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.
Russia has consistently maintained that it has no plans to invade Ukraine. But, the United States and allies of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO, have rejected Russian claims that it was pulling back troops from the border.
Zelenskyy on Saturday spoke hours after separatist leaders in eastern Ukraine ordered a full military mobilisation on Saturday. Shelling incidents across the line between government forces and separatists have increased sharply since last week, reported Reuters.
Due to heavy shelling, Ukraine on Sunday also suspended operations at one of the seven checkpoints into the territory of the eastern Donbass region, which is controlled by Russia-backed separatists.
Two Ukrainian soldiers were reportedly killed and four wounded due to the shelling on Saturday.
At the conference, Zelenskyy also said that Ukraine will not respond to provocations by the separatists, reported the BBC. The president, however, said Ukraine will defend itself from Russian aggression.
He also accused Western leaders of following a “policy of appeasement” towards Moscow and demanded Ukraine be given new security guarantees.
Meanwhile, Germany and Austria have advised their citizens to leave Ukraine. German airlines Lufthansa has also cancelled flights to Ukraine’s Kyiv and Odessa, a seaport.
Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden will convene a meeting of the National Security Council on Sunday to discuss the situation in Ukraine.
On Saturday, Russia had launched nuclear military drills, saying that the exercises were carried out to “perfect the performance” of strategic forces.