Ukraine's leader hopes for lasting truce, prisoner swap

Ukraine’s new president says he believes a planned international summit will help achieve a lasting cease-fire in the country’s separatist conflict

KYIV, Ukraine -- Ukraine’s new president has said he believes an international summit next week will help achieve a lasting cease-fire in the country’s separatist conflict.

More than 14,000 people have died in fighting between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed separatist rebels since the conflict erupted in 2014 after Russia's annexation of Crimea.

“It was a signal that Russia is ready for a conversation,” Zelenskiy said during a TV talk show.

Zelenskiy, a 41-year old comic actor with no previous political experience, was elected in a landslide in April on promises to end the fighting.

The Paris talks will focus on implementation of the 2015 Minsk agreement, a deal that was brokered by France and Germany. The document was signed after a series of defeats for Ukrainian forces and envisaged broad autonomy for the rebel-held regions and a sweeping amnesty for the separatists.

Former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has demanded Zelenskiy not grant autonomy to the separatist-controlled areas even though he himself accepted that provision when he negotiated the Minsk deal.

That drew a sardonic response from Zelenskiy, who said that the “former president disagrees with what he signed himself.”

Poroshenko and other critics of Zelenskiy called a rally in Kyiv on Sunday to warn him against making concessions to Russia.