Andriy Yermak / Photo from UNIAN

Political expert Petro Okhotin has said Chief of the Office of the President of Ukraine Andriy Yermak, being backed by President Volodymyr Zelensky, has taken a tough stance in negotiations with Russia on Donbas.

"The head of the President's Office took a tough and consistent stance in the negotiations with the Kremlin. Yermak's position is to implement the peace plan agreed with France and Germany. This document is already on the table. According to its conditions, the Russians must immediately cease fire and let OSCE and ICRC representatives have access to the occupied territories. Yermak has repeatedly assured and continues to assure that Ukraine will not allow the Kremlin to dictate its conditions and turn negotiations into a non-constructive channel. Everything should be according to the Minsk process and in compliance with the Normandy agreements," Okhotin wrote on Facebook on March 26.

According to him, Russia is using controlled media to spread reports on the unacceptability of Ukraine's peace plan.

Read alsoZelensky approves Ukraine's Military Security StrategyThe President's Office is aware that now Russia could be handled only from a position of strength. That is why Zelensky gave Yermak carte blanche to cement the Ukrainian position that there is no alternative to the peace plan developed by Ukraine and Europe, the expert said.

"Based on a number of statements and events (including sanctions against [pro-Russian MP Viktor] Medvedchuk and raids in pro-Russian forces' offices), we see the President's Office and Western partners have no doubts that Russia is to blame for the bloodshed and seven years of war in Donbas. Everyone sees Kyiv has been adhering to the agreements, while Moscow is constantly disrupting them," Okhotin said.

He explained Ukraine has a powerful trump card in relations with Russia, namely the sanctions Russia wants to get rid of.

"It seems the sanctions will not be lifted until the Kremlin agrees to Ukraine's peace plan and withdraws all illegal armed groups from Ukrainian soil," the expert added.

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