Ukraine, Russia hope for progress after peace talks

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Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, speaks during a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Elysee Palace in Paris, Monday Dec. 9, 2019. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy met for the first time Monday at a summit in Paris to try to end five years of war between Ukrainian troops and Russian-backed separatists. (Charles Platiau/Pool via AP)

KYIV – Ukraine and Russia on Tuesday both hailed the outcome of peace talks in Paris even though they failed to solve the core issues blocking the resolution of the five-year separatist conflict in Ukraine's east.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy met for the first time Monday at the talks sponsored by France and Germany, which dragged on for eight hours but didn't produce a breakthrough

They made a deal to exchange prisoners and pledged to ensure a lasting cease-fire in fighting between Ukrainian troops and Russia-backed separatists that has killed more than 14,000 and devastated Ukraine's industrial heartland. They made no progress on key contentious issues — a timeline for local elections and control of the borders in the rebel-held region.

“It was a tie,” Zelenskiy told reporters after the talks.

The 41-year-old Zelenskiy, a comic actor with no political experience who was elected in a landslide in April on promises of ending the fighting in the east, blamed his predecessor, Petro Poroshenko, for leaving a bad legacy.

The Paris talks focused on the implementation of a 2015 peace agreement for eastern Ukraine that was signed in Minsk and brokered by France and Germany.

The Minsk deal puts forth that Ukraine can regain control over the border with Russia in the separatist-held regions only after they are granted a broad self-rule and hold local elections. The agreement was a diplomatic coup for Russia, ensuring that the rebel regions get a broad authority and resources to survive on their own without cross-border support.

“It's a very difficult situation, we are hostages of the Minsk deal,” Zelenskiy said. “But despite that, we aren't going to accept it.”