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Zelenskiy: Relations Between Moscow, Kyiv Far From 'Brotherly'

By RFE/RL May 03, 2019

Ukrainian President-elect Volodymyr Zelenskiy has said that current ties between Kyiv and Moscow cannot be called "brotherly," and the two countries now have little in common outside a shared border.

In a Facebook post on May 2, Zelenskiy reacted to recent comments by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who said that Russians and Ukrainians had "lots in common."

"The reality is that today, after [Russia's] annexation of Crimea and [its] aggression in [Ukraine's eastern region of] Donbas, the 'common' thing that is left is the state border: 2,295 kilometers and 400 meters. And Russia must give back to Ukraine control over each millimeter. Only after that can we look for what is still 'common' between us," Zelenskiy wrote.

Zelenskiy said Russian actions such as banning oil exports to Ukraine, holding Ukrainian citizens in Russian jails, issuing passports to residents in territory in eastern Ukraine controlled by Russia-backed separatists "do not bring our countries' relations one bit closer."

"And it is definitely impossible to call such relations 'brotherly,'" Zelenskiy added.

On April 29, Putin said that Russians and Ukrainians "may at the end of the day have common citizenship, as we have lots in common."

Zelenskiy's Facebook statement came a day after Putin signed a decree to fast-track passports and citizenship for people in Ukraine and Soviet-era deportees.

Before that, just days after Zelenskiy's April 21 victory in a presidential runoff, Putin signed another decree that simplified the process to get Russian citizenship for Ukrainian citizens residing in Russia-backed-separatist-controlled territories in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Putin's moves were decried by Ukraine and the West as an attempt not only to undermine Ukrainian sovereignty but Zelenskiy's electoral win.

Zelenskiy mocked the passport offer, telling Ukrainians not to bother since Russian citizenship means "the right to be arrested for peaceful protests," and "the right not to have free and competitive elections."

Meanwhile, separatists controlling parts of the Donetsk region have announced that they will start accepting applications for Russian citizenship from local residents as of May 3.

Source: https://www.rferl.org/a/zelenskiy- relations-between-moscow-kyiv-far- from-brotherly/29919040.html

Copyright (c) 2019. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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