Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says he thinks his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin understands that Ukraine is a big, independent country.

Answering a question from The Times of Israel whether Putin still thinks that 'Ukraine is not a country,' Zelensky said: "I don't know what he's thinking about. He didn't tell me. I think he understands my attitude: Ukraine is an independent country. We are a big country, the biggest in Europe. I think he understands. What he thinks about it? That's in his head."

According to Zelensky, a format was constructed for a dialogue with Putin. "With the president of the Russian Federation, today, our dialog has started. We had a number of phone calls. We constructed a format for our dialogue that resulted in some sensitive decisions. We have returned our prisoners, our ships. After three years without meetings, we managed to agree on the Normandy Format. After that, there was a second exchange of prisoners — the biggest such exchange," Zelensky said in an interview for the publication.

Видео дня

The Ukrainian president said he would never have sought the presidency without having the peaceful settlement in Donbas as a goal.

Read alsoDonbas war escalation: One Ukraine soldier killed, ten wounded on Jan 18

Describing the current situation in eastern Ukraine, he said: "I can see the progress, because the number of exchanges of fire is significantly reduced. But it is still present."

As UNIAN reported earlier, one Ukrainian soldier was killed in action, another 10 were wounded in action in Donbas on January 18 as Russia-led forces had mounted six attacks on Joint Forces positions on that day.

From 00:00 to 18:00 Kyiv time on January 19, enemy troops violated the ceasefire eight times. They used proscribed weapons, namely 122mm artillery systems and 120mm mortars. No Ukrainian army casualties were reported over that period.