Vladimir Zelensky / Screenshot from the video message

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has invited his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to "meet anywhere in the Ukrainian Donbas, where there is a war."

He announced this in a video message dedicated to Russian aggression.

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"And I would like to address our northern neighbor separately. Once the President of the Russian Federation said: if a fight is inevitable, you need to hit first. But, in my opinion, today every leader must understand that a fight cannot be inevitable when it is not about the gateway and hooligans, but about a real war and millions of human lives," Zelensky said.

He mentioned that Second World War veterans still live in Donbas, "who liberated this land from the Nazis and do not understand why their peaceful life, 75 years later, is again under the threat of war."

"Ukraine and Russia, despite their common past, look to the future differently. We are who we are. You are who you are. But this is not necessarily a problem, this is an opportunity. At the very least – an opportunity to stop the deadly mathematics of future military losses before it's too late," Zelensky said.

He stressed that in the past two days, Normandy Four advisers and members of the security subgroup in the Trilateral Contact Group on Donbas met to discuss the resumption of a full ceasefire, but, despite the support of all parties, Russia refused to join their joint statement.

"At the same time, a proposal was made to meet at the delimitation line in order to see and understand the situation as accurately as possible. What should I understand? I go there every month. Mr. Putin! I am ready to go even further and invite you to meet anywhere in the Ukrainian Donbas, where there is a war. Glory to Ukraine!" Zelensky said, summing up his statement.

Russian troops amassing along Ukraine's borders

  • On March 30, 2021, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Colonel-General Ruslan Khomchak said Russia had deployed 28 battalion tactical groups along the state border of Ukraine and in the temporarily occupied territories. It is also said to be planning to bring up to 25 battalion tactical groups under the guise of preparing for military drills. Such actions pose a threat to Ukraine's military security.
  • According to the Armed Forces of Ukraine, enemy troops are reinforcing their advanced units with reconnaissance teams and sniper pairs, involving Russian army instructors in personnel training. Russia-led forces' artillery units are reportedly on full alert in certain districts, including villages and towns in occupied Ukrainian territory.
  • On March 31, 2021, The New York Times reported Russia was pulling 4,000 troops to the border with Ukraine.
  • 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.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Moscow was trying to put pressure on Kyiv by amassing its military forces along the Russian-Ukrainian border.
  • On April 8, 2021, Khomchak assured the situation was under control, and the Ukrainian military was ready to respond to the escalation both in the temporarily occupied territory of Luhansk and Donetsk regions and along the entire Ukrainian-Russian border.