Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky this week visited the front line of separatist-controlled, Russia-backed eastern Ukraine as tensions continue to simmer between Kiev and Moscow.
Zelensky, a political newcomer who was inaugurated May 20 after receiving more than 70 percent of the vote in the election, spoke to soldiers and assessed Ukraine’s military position during his first visit to the region, where the conflict has claimed roughly 13,000 lives since 2014. Zelensky has said that ending the war and de-escalating tensions with Russia are among his top priorities as president.
Following the election, Russian President Vladimir Putin did not congratulate Zelensky on his victory, and Putin’s spokesman said he will only do so if Zelensky makes progress on normalizing relations with Russia. Tensions between the two countries have risen amid the annexation of Crimea by Moscow; Russia says the peninsula joined the country willingly.
In March, prior to the election, Ukrainain officials under Petro Poroshenko imposed sanctions on 848 individuals and 294 entities for their role in Russian aggression toward Ukraine. The wide-ranging list applied sanctions on multiple sectors of the Russian economy, including commercial actors operating in Crimea.
Ukraine imposed sanctions on entities involved with the development of a bridge across the Kerch Strait, a waterway separating Crimea from the Russian mainland. The list includes many actors already sanctioned by the U.S., as well as some new names.