(dpa) – German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky are meeting online to discuss the worsening situation in eastern Ukraine.
France is hosting the talks, with the aim of getting a ceasefire to stick in the region. Attendees are also going to discuss what progress has been made in terms of resolving the conflict through political means, according to sources close to the French government.
The conference starts at 3 pm (1300 GMT).
Fears are growing about a flare-up in the conflict due to a significant build-up of Russian troops along the border with Ukraine.
Parts of Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions along the Russian border have been controlled by rebels supported by Moscow for nearly seven years.
Ahead of the talks, Zelensky said that Ukraine was prepared for any kind of scenario in the conflict.
“Since the beginning of my mandate I and my staff have done everything possible to intesify negotiations and reach a peaceful solution,” Zelensky told Italian newspaper La Repubblica on Friday.
But the country would continue to defend itself, he said. The 43-year-old spoke of a “brutal conflict” fought with drones, heay artillery and mines, in which Ukraine had lost 30 soldiers in the last months.
Zelensky said Russia would not stop to destabilize the country and called for concrete measures, especially for Ukraine becoming a NATO member.
According to UN estimates, more than 13,000 people have been killed in fighting since 2014. Despite the imposition of a ceasefire, around 50 people have been killed since the beginning of the year alone. A peace plan from 2015 is on ice.
France said it was watching developments very closely and was concerned about the increasing number of ceasefire violations.
Before the video conference, Macron and Zelensky plan to hold talks, a meeting planned for some time, French government sources said.
Alongside the conflict in the Donbass, the two are expected to discuss economic issues and Ukraine’s relationship with the European Union.