Ukraine’s president visits troops ahead of peace talks

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, hands over the flag of a military unit during his visits the war-hit Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Friday, Dec. 6, 2019. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, hands over the flag of a military unit during his visits the war-hit Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Friday, Dec. 6, 2019. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — The Ukrainian president has visited troops facing Russia-backed separatists ahead of a planned international summit on settling the conflict.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy told soldiers Friday that he was making intensive diplomatic efforts to solve the conflict in eastern Ukraine. More than 14,000 have died in fighting between Ukrainian forces and separatist rebels since the conflict erupted in 2014.

Zelenskiy, who is set to hold talks with the leaders of Russia, France and Germany in Paris on Monday, said it’s important to have a strong military behind his back.

The 41-year old was elected in a landslide in April on promises to end the fighting. Polls have shown broad support for his peace efforts, but some in Ukraine fear that he could yield too much ground to Russian President Vladimir Putin.