Volodymyr Zelenskyy, President of Ukraine speaking in the "Special Address by Volodymyr Zelenskyy, President of Ukraine" session at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2020 in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, January 22, 2020. Congress Hall World Economic Forum / Boris Baldinger

According to the Ukrainian President, preparations are on the way, but Russia and Ukraine still need to agree on a date for the meeting between the two presidents. 

The American President Joe Biden and the Russian President Vladimir Putin is scheduled to meet on June 16 in a neutral country, where they are expected to discuss the recent escalation in Eastern Ukraine.  However, a meeting is also underway between Putin and the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who invited his Russian counterpart to meet back in April during the escalations in Eastern Ukraine to find a solution to the conflict. 

Zelensky previously instructed Andriy Yermak, the Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, to set up the meeting with Putin, but no date has been set at this point. Putin did previously express interest in meeting Zelensky to discuss any other matter than the war in Eastern Ukraine, which he said Zelensky could discuss with the leaders of the Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic, which Zelensky refuses to do.  

Mykhailo Podolyak, the adviser to the head of the President’s Office, told the Ukrainian news agency Unian that there the two sides are still negotiating both time and content.

“Andriy Yermak is actively promoting this issue of a bilateral summit. But, in my opinion, the question is not about when the summit will take place, the question is whether we are able to put on the agenda of this summit a number of difficult issues that need to be addressed, the ones that for seven years have not been resolved,” Podolyak said.

Still looking for a place

Zelensky previously said that a meeting could be held in Vatican City or any other neutral setting. He also said that it would be possible to meet at the frontline in Donbas. However, according to Podolyak, the parties are still looking for a place to meet. 

“In a country which is trusted on the one hand, and which takes a neutral position on the other hand… It can be any location, for example, there were mentions of the Vatican in the media, or, perhaps, Jerusalem, but against the background of what’s happening today in the Middle East in the relations between Palestine and Israel, there are already difficulties in this regard, of course,” Podolyak said.

Kremlin has not commented on the statements made by Podolyak about the potential meeting. Still, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov recently said that Russia is ready to discuss Crimea with Zelensky in the context of border cooperation. 

“Our Ukrainian vis-a-vis, for example, say: we will discuss Crimea. But if to discuss Crimea in the context of developing border cooperation – Russia has border cooperation between regions and foreign countries – if in this context, I’m sure Putin will be ready,” Peskov said, according to the Russian news agency Tass, while making it clear that Russia will not discuss whether Crimea belongs to Russia and that differences on this topic is vast. 

“Let’s see what will be the result (about setting up a time for a meeting, red.). But this exchange of views is indeed taking place,” Peskov said. 

A talk with Biden

The American President Joe Biden and the Russian President Vladimir Putin are scheduled to meet on June 16, as previously mentioned. Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, Yevhen Yenin, has said that Biden and Zelensky are planning to speak ahead of that meeting. It is still unclear when that talk will take place. 

“First of all, the president of the United States, by definition, will be on the side of the U.S. interests, but the trick is that in this aspect, our bilateral interests coincide virtually 100 percent. As we have already said, we have an extremely trustful dialogue with our American partners, and Putin’s meeting with Biden will be preceded by contacts between our president and the American president,” Yenin said, according to Unian

“That’s why we are more than confident that our American partners will maintain a fairly clear and tough line they have adhered to in relations with our state in their contacts with the aggressor from the very beginning of the Ukrainian-Russian war in 2014. There can simply be no compromises on this issue as such,” Yenin said.