18 Jul 2019 15:18

Kyiv looking for possibility to talk to Russia as equals - Zelensky's office

KYIV. July 18 (Interfax) - The Office of the President of Ukraine said it is confident it can start normal negotiations with Russia.

"We want to start a normal negotiation process with Russia. The first step needs to be taken for that. There must be peace. Any war ends with negotiations. But without losses of territories on our side! Much has been said about a ceasefire, the withdrawal of forces, but the most important thing is to start talking. We are looking for a chance now to talk as equals," First Deputy of the Office of the President of Ukraine Serhiy Shefir said in an interview published by the online publication LB.UA on Thursday.

Ukraine is not only ready for talks, but is taking the first steps toward them, Shefir said.

"We're demonstrating our [first] steps - we have withdrawn forces at Stanytsia Luhanska and want to build a bridge. We have resumed the Minsk process. With all our actions, and even in the president' speeches, the message is that we are ready for talks. It's not so easy to get a response from Russia, but I think that after a few more steps we will achieve dialogue. I'm certain of that. It can't go on like this, we have to come out of this nosedive in our country," he said.

Shefir said he is 70% confident that negotiations will be successful. In his opinion, the Russian side also "hopes for a conversation and the end of the war."

Shefir said he thinks the priority task is returning the 24 captive Ukrainian sailors.

"If [Russian President Vladimir] Putin gives us the sailors, it will be a reason to sit down and talk with him," he said.

At the same time, he said Zelensky will not agree to allow Russia to keep Crimea for itself.

"Crimea is a very difficult issue. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't resolve the Donbas issue. Let's start there and finish with the peninsula. We need to return Donbas mentally, communicatively," Shefir said.