President Volodymyr Zelenskyy also told a press conference that his office had contacted the Kremlin to prepare for a meeting with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.
The two former Soviet neighbors have been locked in a tense standoff since Moscow annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in March 2014 following the ouster of the former friendly president of Moscow and threw its weight behind the rebels separatists in eastern Ukraine.
More than 14,000 people have died in seven years of fighting in the industrial center of eastern Ukraine, Donbass.
A 2015 peace deal brokered by France and Germany helped end large-scale battles, but regular skirmishes continued along the tense eastern line of contact and settlement efforts. politics have stagnated.
Over the past month, growing violations of a ceasefire in the east and a large build-up of Russian troops near Ukraine fueled Ukrainian and Western fears of a resumption of hostilities. Moscow said it had withdrawn its forces after major maneuvers, but Zelenskyy said on Thursday that many Russian troops remained near Ukraine.
The Ukrainian president also said that France and Germany had recently been too soft on Russia.
“I feel their support, but I think it should be stronger,” he said. “They are aware of my thoughts, I was very frank with them. I think they have weakened their positions a bit recently. “
Ukraine has been pushing to change the Minsk deal so that the resumption of border control with Russia in rebel-controlled areas precedes local elections there, but Russia has firmly rejected Kiev’s demands. .
Zelenskyy said his office had engaged in contacts with the Kremlin to prepare for his meeting with Putin.
“A conversation between the Ukrainian presidential office and the Russian Federation has started” to organize the talks, Zelenskyy said, adding that he could meet the Russian president in a third country.
The Ukrainian leader previously suggested that he and Putin meet in eastern Ukraine, and Putin invited Zelenskyy to come to Moscow.
In Moscow, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed during Thursday’s call with reporters that Russian and Ukrainian officials had had preliminary talks about a possible meeting, but added that they had remained sketchy. .
Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow contributed to this report.