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Bolton: No Need For Zelenskiy To 'Rush' Into Action On Donbas


U.S. national-security adviser John Bolton speaks to the media after a wreath-laying ceremony at the memorial for soldiers killed in the conflict in eastern Ukraine in Kyiv on August 27.

KYIV -- U.S. national-security adviser John Bolton says there is no need for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to "rush" into any course of action regarding Russia’s involvement with separatist forces in eastern Ukraine.

"I think, from the perspective of a new government in Ukraine, President Zelenskiy would be well-advised to look at how to unfold a strategy of dealing with the Russians very carefully," Bolton told RFE/RL in a wide-ranging interview on August 27 in Ukraine's capital, Kyiv.

“I don't think there is any reason to rush it into one course of action or another…. I think working this through over a period of time makes sense for the new government in Ukraine."

"I don't suppose that the Europeans are going to have a solution that is readily apparent," he added in reference to the so-called Normandy format of negotiations aimed at ending the Ukraine conflict.

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More than 13,000 people have been killed in eastern Ukraine after Russia-backed separatists took up arms against government forces in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in April 2014.

After being elected in April this year, Zelenskiy called for a four-way meeting with fellow Normandy format participants Russia, Germany, and France to revive peace talks with Kremlin leader Vladimir Putin.

Moscow has said there is interest in renewing peace discussions, but it did not specify a time frame.

On August 26, French President Emmanuel Macron said the Normandy format leaders will hold a summit next month.

"We think that the conditions exist for a useful summit," Macron said at the end of a Group of Seven (G7) meeting in the southwestern French coastal resort of Biarritz.

Asked if Washington would want to join in Normandy format talks, Bolton did not answer directly, but said there is "significant American interest" in existing issues between Kyiv and Moscow.

"I think that is why we should consider, if President Zelenskiy wants us to be involved [in talks with Russia], whether we should do it."

Black Sea Buildup

Bolton also voiced U.S. concern about Russia's military buildup in the Black Sea, including in Crimea, which has been unlawfully annexed by Moscow from Ukraine.

"The Black Sea has a number of NATO allies that also are part of it," Bolton said, adding, "We expect to see access across the Black Sea maintained for all the littoral states and other traders who use the Black Sea."

He said the United States was monitoring Russian activities in other parts of the world as well.

"The same is true of the Baltic; the same is true in the Arctic. And these are issues that we have had some difficult discussions with the Russians on, as in many other areas where they are trying to intrude beyond where they have a legitimate interest to be."

Bolton’s visit is the first to Ukraine by a top U.S. official since Zelenskiy’s election in April. He is scheduled to meet with the Ukrainian leader on August 28, according to local media reports.

Upon his arrival, Bolton told reporters that "for me, this is an opportunity to talk about some priorities we have and really also, because of the new administration here, to hear their priorities."

Bolton added that a meeting between President Donald Trump and Zelenskiy could happen when the U.S. leader travels to Poland early next month.

Minsk Trip

Meanwhile, the presidential administration in neighboring Belarus said on August 27 that Bolton will travel to Minsk for talks with President Alyaksandr Lukashenka later in the week, without giving an exact date.

Bolton's trip to Minsk, which has not been confirmed by U.S. officials, would mark the highest-level U.S. government visit to Belarus in the past 20 years.

The government of another former Soviet republic, Moldova, said earlier that Bolton would visit its capital, Chisinau, on August 29.

Bolton’s Eastern European tour will most likely irritate Moscow, which has been trying to restore its influence over former Soviet republics in recent years.

With reporting by Reuters and AP
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    RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service

    RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service has seen its audience grow significantly since Russia's full-scale invasion in February 2022 and is among the most cited media outlets in the country. Its bold, in-depth reporting from the front lines has won many accolades and awards. Its comprehensive coverage also includes award-winning reporting by the Donbas.Realities and Crimea.Realities projects and the Schemes investigative unit.