KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine’s leader says that France and Germany have recently softened their stance in talks with Moscow on settling a conflict with Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy also declared Thursday that his office has reached out to the Kremlin to prepare a meeting with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. The two ex-Soviet neighbors have been locked in a tense tug-of-war ever since Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in March 2014 following the ouster of the country’s former Moscow-friendly president and threw its weight behind separatist rebels in Ukraine’s east. A 2015 peace deal brokered by France and Germany helped end large-scale battles, but skirmishes have continued and efforts to reach a political settlement have stalled.
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