Ukraine Plans Local Elections, Including in Breakaway Donbas

Henry Meyer and Stepan Kravchenko

(Bloomberg) -- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said he plans to hold local elections across the country, including in breakaway areas in eastern Ukraine.

The polls, set for October, must be held under Ukrainian law, Zelenskiy said Saturday. He reiterated a demand that Russia hand over the border with the Donbas region, where Russian-backed separatists are in control.

“We’re ready for dialog with the peaceful population of these territories, but not with those who have no legitimacy under international law,” he said at the Munich Security Conference.

Zelenskiy, who was elected in a landslide in April on a campaign promise to end a six-year conflict with Russia and free Ukrainian prisoners, said he’s confident he can halt the fighting by the end of his term in 2024. More than 13,000 people have died since Russia fomented an uprising in Donbas in 2014.

“On the first day of my presidency, I said openly: we didn’t start this war, but we have to end it,” Zelenskiy said, adding that Ukraine will propose a mechanism for a gradual separation of the opposing sides in Donbas “sector by sector."

The Ukrainian leader met his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Paris in December. France and Germany plan another four-way summit with Russia and Ukraine in Berlin in April in a bid to make more progress. While Ukraine and Russia agreed last year on a mass exchange of prisoners, the implementation of the stalled 2015 Minsk peace accord remains deadlocked over the border issue.

To contact the reporters on this story: Henry Meyer in Munich at hmeyer4@bloomberg.net;Stepan Kravchenko in Moscow at skravchenko@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Gregory L. White at gwhite64@bloomberg.net, Paul Richardson, James Amott

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