11 Feb 2020 15:40

Zelensky allows for possibility that elections in Donbas can be held along with other local elections in fall 2020

KYIV. Feb 11 (Interfax) - Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said he has the feeling that elections can be held in Donbas this coming fall simultaneously with local elections across the country; at the same time, he did not rule out that the conflict in Donbas could be frozen.

"Local elections held simultaneously across the country unite it. This is an important symbol for me," Zelensky said in an interview with Interfax.

"Elections in Donbas are possible only after the military actions there are ended and the foreign armed units are withdrawn," he said.

"How likely is that? If we reach agreement, anyway it would take at least around three months to ensure security for everyone there on the ground - for journalists, for the CEC [Central Elections Commission], and for all monitors," Zelensky said.

"For some reason, I believe this is possible, I have this feeling for some reason," he said.

Much will become clearer following the Normandy-format summit planned for April, Zelensky said. "If there is marking time again there, the chances for local elections will drop dramatically," he said.

Asked about an exchange of prisoners, Zelensky said, "These are long lists, they need to be broken up."

"About 200 of our people are on that side, and we hold some 175-180 here. And this means that they can't be returned in one go because of the need to draw up the documents. Therefore, this process will be divided into several exchanges," he said.

The freezing of the conflict "will not be different in any way from what's going on now," Zelensky said.

"Disengagement along the entire line of contact is a lengthy process, which will take years. It's so lengthy a process that hardly any of the Normandy-format leaders will still be in office," he said.