Russian President Vladimir Putin urged Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Friday to comply with peace agreements to reduce the five-year conflict between Kiev forces and Moscow-backed separatists, the Kremlin said in a blunt statement on Friday .
Putin and Zelenskyy discussed the resolution of the conflict, the Kremlin said, adding that Putin emphasized the importance of the "complete and unconditional implementation,quot; of the peace agreements negotiated by the West.
"Vladimir Putin has raised a direct question: Does Kiev intend to implement the Minsk agreements seriously," said the Kremlin.
France and Germany helped to negotiate the so-called Minsk agreements in the Belarusian capital, but they are poorly observed and the peace process has essentially stopped.
The 2015 agreement requires the withdrawal of heavy weapons, the restoration of control of Kiev over its borders, greater autonomy for the regions controlled by the separatists of Donetsk and Lugansk and the holding of local elections.
But the new Zelenskyy chief of staff of Ukraine, Andriy Yermak, questioned this week the possibility of holding elections in eastern Ukraine in the presence of "illegal armed,quot; groups and without Kiev controlling the borders in the east.
Yermak, a close ally of Zelenskyy, has led talks on Russia and a source in the Ukrainian presidency has told the AFP news agency that he will remain the main negotiator with Moscow.
Zelenskyy, a 42-year-old comedian with no previous political experience, won a landslide victory in Ukraine last year with the promise of ending the conflict and improving ties with Russia.
He and Putin met for the first time during a West-mediated summit in Paris in December.
On Friday, Putin and Zelenskyy also discussed a new withdrawal of troops in eastern Ukraine and demining operations, the Kremlin said.
"The willingness to continue efforts aimed at the liberation and exchange,quot; of people held by Russia and Ukraine was expressed, the Kremlin added.
Kiev, meanwhile, said Friday that talks with Putin focused on preparations for a new summit, adding that the two leaders agreed to step up the work of negotiators to implement existing agreements.
Release of prisoners
"Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Vladimir Putin paid special attention to the process of liberation of retained Ukrainian citizens,quot; in Russia, Crimea and the regions controlled by Ukrainian separatists, Kiev added.
Zelenskyy managed to negotiate a long-awaited exchange with Russia that saw the two countries exchange a total of 70 prisoners in September.
Zelenskyy and Putin spoke on the phone for the last time on December 31.
The Kremlin announced this week that it had designated a new key person for Ukraine, who is considered a less divisive figure than its predecessor.
The move could announce a new phase in the talks, a French presidential official said.
The ties between Ukraine and Russia were shattered after a bloody uprising overthrew a government backed by the Kremlin in 2014.
Moscow went on to annex Crimea and supported the combatants in eastern Ukraine. More than 13,000 people have died in the conflict, the only active war in Europe.