Ukraine protesters demand no 'capitulation' to Russia

Kiev (AFP) –


Thousands of Ukrainians demonstrated in Kiev on Thursday to demand no "capitulation" to Moscow as President Volodymyr Zelensky prepares for a December summit meeting with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.

The pair are due to meet for the first time since Zelensky's election last April at French-hosted December 9 quadripartite talks which French and German leaders Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel will also attend.

But as Ukraine marked six years since the start of the pro-European Maidan protests which fomented the ongoing conflict with Russian separatists which has killed some 13,000 the flag-waving protesters brandished slogans urging "no to capitulation."

"Any concessions would only make the situation worse. One cannot conclude an agreement with Putin," said demonstrator, 44-year-old Andrii Serguiienko.

The rally came even as relations between the states have thawed to a degree after Russia handed back three Ukrainian vessels seized off Moscow-annexed Crimea last year and with September having seen a large-scale prisoner exchange.

Ukraine and Russian-backed separatist have also agreed to stage phased troop withdrawals in three eastern frontline sectors -- Zelensky, who is more inclined to dialogue than predecessor Petro Poroshenko, has made a troop pullback a condition of having the French summit.

But a pre-summit roadmap thrashed out between Ukrainian, Russian and separatist negotiators envisaging special status for separatist territories if they conduct free and fair elections under the Ukrainian constitution has sparked anger in Ukraine.

"The actions of Zelensky and his team targeting troop withdrawals is a veritable capitulation. It's not normal," scolded Ioulia Nikolaienko, a 30-year-old painter attending the demonstration.