Photo from UNIAN, Viktor Kovalchuk

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called on Russia to return to a meaningful diplomatic dialogue on a peaceful settlement in eastern Ukraine.

The comment came during Zelensky's interview with the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, according to the press service of the President's Office.

"Since the start of my tenure as president, we've been doing everything possible to intensify negotiations and find a peaceful solution. We're always ready to return to meaningful diplomatic contacts, so we call on Russia to do the same," Zelensky said.

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In response to the question of whether Ukraine is ready to defend itself against possible wider aggression on the part of Russia, Zelensky noted: "It's clear the Ukrainians will defend themselves, as we have been doing since 2014. There can be no alternative to preserving our sovereignty and state independence, especially since hostilities are taking place on our land, not on someone else's territory. "

The president stressed that now, first of all, everything must be done to prevent the expansion of Russian aggression against Ukraine.

Read also"Army is ready": Zelensky on latest tensions with Russia"And to this end, Ukraine needs the most effective support from everyone," he stressed.

Ukraine is now seeing some truly strong support from partners – the European Union, UK, the U.S., Canada, and other countries, the Ukrainian leader said.

"But as for now, Russian troops remain on our border and in the occupied territory. Therefore, we must do more to protect order in Europe and common values. This is not a war for territory as such. This is pressure on the democratic system on our continent, this is an attempt to strip of any sense the principle of the inviolability of borders in Europe and the right of peoples to independently determine their own destiny. In this context, I very much look forward to the pro-active role of Italy and its leaders in support of Ukraine," Zelensky said.

Russian military build-up on Ukraine border

  • In early March, Russia amassed 28 battalion tactical groups along the state border of Ukraine and in the temporarily occupied territories, also intending to deploy an additional 25 battalion tactical groups under the guise of forthcoming exercises, which poses a threat to Ukraine's military security.
  • According to the Armed Forces of Ukraine, invaders are reinforcing their outposts with reconnaissance groups and sniper teams, also employing war instructors from the Russian armed forces. Also, Russian occupation forces are keeping in combat readiness their artillery units, including in settlements across the occupied territory of Ukraine.
  • On March 31, The New York Times reported about Russia pulling 4,000 military to the border with Ukraine. Also, a video appeared showing a train loaded with Russian military hardware being transferred to the occupied Crimea across the Kerch Strait bridge.
  • Zelensky said Russia was trying to exert pressure on Ukraine by the latest muscle-flexing at its borders.
  • Eyewitness footage was shared on the Internet, showing a train with Russian military hardware en route along the Kerch Strait bridge to occupied Crimea.
  • The U.S. European Command raised its alert status to the highest level after fighting had resumed between Russia-led forces and Ukrainian troops in Donetsk region.
  • The U.S. Department of Defense said it was "aware of Russian troop movements" on Ukraine's borders and was concerned about recent escalations of Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine.
  • The United States, finding reports of Russian military movements on Ukraine's border credible, asked Moscow to explain the "provocations" and is ready to engage on the situation.
  • On April 8, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Ruslan Khomchak, said the situation remains controlled, and that the Ukrainian military is ready to respond to any aggravation both in the temporarily occupied territory of Luhansk and Donetsk regions, and along the entire Ukrainian-Russian border.