A pro-Russian opposition figure in Ukraine calls on presidential frontrunner Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who is expected to easily win an election runoff, to reconcile with Moscow and get back eastern Ukraine.
Viktor Medvedchuk, head of the political council of the political party Opposition Platform - For Life, outlined the prospect in an interview before the election runoff on Sunday, saying Zelenskiy could regain control over the separatist-controlled east of Ukraine of takes the office.
Polls suggest the 41-year-old comedian and actor is due to score an overwhelming victory over Western-backed incumbent President Petro Poroshenko.
"They don’t have any expectations in Moscow,” Medvedchuk said. “They want to see what happens afterwards, who will be in his (Zelenskiy’s) entourage and what he will do and with whom.”
A deadly war has battered Ukraine’s industrial east over the past four years, although there has been a relative calm in the area in the recent past.
The war broke out in Ukraine in early 2014 after pro-Russian protests erupted in eastern cities and the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea re-joined Russia following a referendum. The West brands the unification as annexation of the territory by Russia.
Kiev and its Western allies also accuse Moscow of supporting pro-Russian militia in eastern Ukraine, an allegation the Kremlin vehemently denies.
The pro-Russians have turned the two regions of Donetsk and Lugansk in the east — collectively known as the Donbass — into self-proclaimed republics.
An agreement on how to implement a peace deal over eastern Ukraine could be reached “within several months” and implemented on the ground within “six to eight months,” said Medvedchuk.
Russia has reacted to the runoff votes, saying it was watching candidates’ statements closely and hoped any new president could implement a peace deal on Donbass.
Asked about Medvedchuk’s advice for Ukraine’s new president on Friday, Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for President Vladimir Putin, called him “very active” and “important” when it came to his humanitarian work as an intermediary between Moscow and Kiev.
“We would always like to hope for the best. Of course we want to hope that the person who is elected Ukraine’s president will not be from the party of war. And we want to hope that this person will take a different perspective on relations between Ukraine and Russia,” Peskov said.
Zelenskiy has so far said he seeks peace in the east and to wants to breathe new life into the stalled talks.
In September 2014, Kiev and the pro-Russia forces signed an EU-brokered ceasefire agreement in the Belarusian capital city of Minsk in a bid to halt fighting in Ukraine’s eastern regions.
The warring sides also inked another truce agreement, dubbed Minsk II, in February 2015 under the supervision of Russia, Germany, and France.
The fragile ceasefire has frequently been violated, with Kiev and the militants blaming each other.
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