Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Monday took to a treadmill to stress the country will remain in stalemate until he talks to Russian leader Vladimir Putin at a key summit next week.
The 41-year-old former comedy actor who took office in May posted a video on his presidential office’s Facebook page where he addresses the nation while gently jogging on a running machine.
He says his first meeting with the Russian strongman for direct talks at a four-way summit in Paris next week, which some Ukrainians oppose, is needed to move forward and bring an end to the country’s five-year conflict with Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.
“You know what they say, what dialogue can there be between Zelensky and Putin?”, he says, acknowledging the criticism that he is caving in to Russian demands.
“You know, it’s possible to go on without this dialogue, but it’s something like (…) running on this running machine,” Zelensky says, dressed in a dark stripped T-shirt and jogging pants.
“You do something, you burn calories, but you are still on the same spot,” he adds.
“We don’t want just to be on the same spot, we want all of this to end.”
Putin and Zelensky are likely to have a one-on-one meeting during the four-way summit talks in Paris next Monday, joined by French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The encounter will attempt to end a conflict which saw pro-Moscow separatists declare unrecognised breakaway republics in Ukraine’s eastern regions of Donetsk and Lugansk and has left more than 13,000 dead since 2014.
Ukraine and its Western allies accuse Moscow of giving financial and military backing to separatists, which Russia denies.