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Russia The Focus As Ukrainian, Polish Presidents Meet In Warsaw

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy (left) holds a joint news conference with Polish leader Andrzej Duda.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy (left) holds a joint news conference with Polish leader Andrzej Duda.

Russia was Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy's main topic of discussion during his first official visit to Poland.

In Warsaw on August 31 for the first of a two-day trip that will see the recently elected leader attend ceremonies marking the 80th anniversary of the start of World War II, Zelenskiy spoke with Polish President Andrzej Duda about ending Kyiv's war with Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine, regaining control of the Crimean Peninsula annexed by Russia, and the continuation of EU sanctions against Moscow.

Zelenskiy also criticized a planned pipeline that will send Russian natural gas to Germany, describing Nord Stream 2 as a threat to Europe as a whole, and thanked the Polish nation "for all the support given during this difficult time of Russian aggression."

Duda, speaking at a joint news conference with the Ukrainian president, said he had assured Zelenskiy that "he can count on me when it comes to the sovereignty, independence, and integrity of Ukraine's territory."

Zelenskiy was expected to outline the policies of Ukraine's newly appointed government, and it became clear that a major priority is stopping the war in eastern Ukraine in which more than 13,000 have died in fighting between Ukrainian government forces and Russia-backed separatists since April 2014.

The issue took on added importance ahead of the ceremonies marking the 80th anniversary of the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany on September 1, 1939, which launched World War II.

Addressing reporters, President Duda said he told Zelenskiy that "Ukraine needs to go back to the territorial integrity it used to have before 2014," when Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula.

In turn, Zelenskiy said that he and Duda "have coordinated the next steps to stop the war in eastern Ukraine."

The two leaders, he added, had agreed that EU sanctions imposed against Russia over its seizure of Crimea and its role in the conflict in eastern Ukraine "should be reviewed only to be increased," until Ukraine's territorial integrity was restored.

The United States, Poland, and Ukraine agreed later in the day to take steps to improve energy security in the region, which is vulnerable to Russia cutting off natural-gas supplies, through the import and improved distribution of liquified natural gas (LNG) from the United States.

U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry said in Warsaw said that by supporting Poland's aspirations to become a natural-gas hub, "the same LNG can help another ally and that's Ukraine."

Poland, for its part, pledged to diversify gas supplies to Ukraine.

U.S. national-security adviser John Bolton said on a visit to Kyiv earlier this week that U.S. President Donald Trump could meet Zelenskiy in Warsaw this weekend. However, Trump canceled his plans to attend the World War II ceremony in Warsaw, citing Hurricane Dorian, which is set to make landfall in Florida in the coming days.

Bolton’s visit was the first by a senior U.S. official since Zelenskiy's landslide election victory in May. Washington is a key ally for Kyiv, having imposed sanctions on Russia for annexing Crimea in 2014 and backing pro-Moscow separatists in Ukraine’s east.

The members of Zelenskiy's new government, appointed on August 29, are on average just under 40 years old. Oleksiy Honcharuk, 35, became the nation’s youngest prime minister, beating the previous record held by his predecessor, Volodymyr Hroysman.

Zelenskiy, a comedian-turned-politician who has pledged to “break the system” in Ukrainian politics, is Ukraine’s youngest president at 41.

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