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Kremlin Lukewarm On Zelenskiy Meeting Proposal By Former Kazakh President

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Vladimir Putin (left) and Nursultan Nazarbaev shake hands during a meeting in the Kazakh city of Petropavlovsk in November 2018.

Former Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev has proposed face-to-face talks between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to ease tensions between the two countries as a conflict pitting Kyiv against pro-Russia separatists rages in eastern Ukraine.

Nazarbaev told a conference in the in the Kazakh capital, Nur-Sultan, on November 12 that Zelenskiy had agreed to take part in such a meeting.

Though the Kremlin appeared less enthusiastic about Nazarbaev's proposal, Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters that Moscow wanted to bring Russian-Ukrainian ties "back to normal," though this needed "a mutual approach by Kyiv" to happen.

"Certainly, Putin...believes a meeting just for the sake of a meeting will be barely fruitful and it should be prepared first.... We are all focused on preparations for the Normandy-format talks," Peskov said.

The "Normandy format" refers to four-way talks between Russia, Ukraine, France, and Germany.

Russia-Ukraine relations have been tense since Moscow illegally annexed Ukraine's Crimea region in 2014 and began supporting pro-Moscow separatists in the eastern regions of Luhansk and Donetsk.

"If they [Putin and Zelenskiy] need a neutral site for talks, I have offered Kazakhstan," Nazarbaev said.

Russia has denied that it has sent armed forces into the territories controlled by Russia-backed separatists in Ukraine's east, where more than 13,000 people have been killed since April 2014.

Nazarbaev's office said earlier that the former president discussed by phone with the Russian leader the possibility of holding a Putin-Zelenskiy summit. It remains unclear when exactly Nazarbaev talked about the issue with Zelenskiy.

Zelenskiy has said that he would not exclude a face-to-face meeting with Putin, but added that such talks most likely would be held during the next Normandy-format talks.

On November 11, Putin discussed plans for holding the next Normandy-format talks in a phone call with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the Kremlin said.

The last Normandy talks took place in October 2016. One of the conditions for the next Normandy talks was a mutual pullback of troops by Ukrainian armed forces and pro-Russian separatists, which the both sides announced as completed on November 11.

With reporting by Kommersant, TASS, Kazinform, Tengrinews, and Reuters
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