Ukraine and Russia will hold crucial talks on the crisis On Thursday, a new round of crucial talks aimed at de-escalating the Ukraine crisis is scheduled to take place in Berlin, Germany.
This round of negotiations will be conducted in accordance with the so-called Normandy Format, which refers to the long-running negotiations between Russia and Ukraine that have been mediated by France and Germany. The talks are aimed at bringing the conflict between Ukraine and Russian-backed separatists in the country’s eastern regions to a close.
Ukraine and Russia will hold crucial talks on the crisis
It has been nearly three years since the talks have been effectively stalled. However, Thursday’s meeting is being closely watched for signs that a flurry of diplomatic activity this week, spearheaded by French President Emmanuel Macron, may point toward a broader de-escalation of the growing crisis.
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The French President, Emmanuel Macron, paid a visit to Kyiv on Tuesday to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Macron’s visit came after marathon talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, which provided a glimmer of hope that Putin might be open to accepting Western offers of diplomacy to end the crisis in the region.
Putin, according to Macron, has guaranteed him that there will be no escalation in the situation surrounding Ukraine, and French officials have since stated that they believe the visit has brought about a “pause” that will allow for de-escalation and more time for dialogue.
With Russia continuing to transfer forces closer to Ukraine, where it has already amassed more than 100,000 troops, the expectation voiced by Macron and Zelenskyy is that Thursday’s talks will serve to broaden the diplomatic approach and help to defuse tensions between the two countries. Both leaders expressed optimism about Thursday’s talks in Kyiv, stating that they expected significant progress.
The talks will take place between Ukraine’s lead negotiator, Andriy Yermak, Zelenskyy’s top aide, and Dmitry Kozak, a deputy chief of staff to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Although no breakthrough or even significant progress is expected, Western countries and Ukraine are pushing to re-energize the format in order to try to persuade Russia to engage or at the very least to keep diplomacy alive for the time being. Macron has stressed that the meetings should result in a “clarification” of what is achievable in the future as a result of the discussions.
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Macron has stated that achieving progress in the Ukraine negotiations should be linked with the initiation of a separate debate with Russia on European security in order to address concerns about NATO held by the Russian government. It is yet unclear whether Macron’s effort signals that the Kremlin is prepared to end its diplomatic relations with the European Union. However, it is believed that some positive actions taken at the negotiations will help to lessen the likelihood of a military escalation.
A former aide to Zelenskyy told ABC News that buying time is all that can be done until Russia is serious about deescalating the situation.
Russia’s buildup has already re-energized the talks — the most recent session, held in Paris two weeks ago, was the first in two years and ended with both sides recommitting to a ceasefire that has been repeatedly violated by both sides. Ukraine and Russia will hold crucial talks on the crisis
It is hoped that the Normandy talks will assist in negotiating the implementation of the so-called Minsk agreement, a peace agreement that was signed in 2015 but has remained essentially dormant since then. Under the terms of the agreement, Ukraine will regain control over the eastern separatist Donbas regions in exchange for granting them extensive autonomy under the country’s constitution.
The talks have come to a halt because Russia and Ukraine differ on the order in which the terms of the agreement should be implemented. The Russian Federation requires that Ukraine first amend its constitution to grant special autonomy to the Russian-occupied territories and then hold elections in those regions before it can reclaim any control over those regions. In order for elections to determine the status of the regions to be held, Ukraine says the separatists must disarm and Russian forces in the region must leave.
As a result of its pressure for Ukraine to reintegrate the separatist regions, Russia has gained influence in the Ukrainian government and a de facto veto over the country’s membership in NATO and the European Union, among other things. As a result, embracing the Minsk deal on Russia’s terms has become politically impossible for any Ukrainian government, which would suffer a massive domestic backlash if it did so.
Russia, according to the majority of observers, is massing forces near Ukraine in part in order to pressure Kyiv into accepting Moscow’s interpretation of the Minsk deal.
Ukraine’s leadership, on the other hand, is concerned that, in the face of a Russian military threat, Western countries will pressure the country to make concessions.
In Ukraine, media reports on Wednesday suggested that President Emmanuel Macron had urged Zelenskyy to make concessions at Thursday’s meetings, particularly to open direct negotiations with the Russian-controlled separatists, the self-proclaimed People’s Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk (DNR and LNR).
If this is true, it would be quite politically explosive in Ukraine and This would suggest that Macron had effectively persuaded Zelenskyy to make a big concession on the battlefield.
However, Ukraine’s foreign minister categorically denied on Wednesday that the country would ever engage in direct negotiations with the separatists.
Mr. Kuleba, the Ukrainian minister, stated that France recognizes Ukraine’s “red lines” and does not insist on implementing policies that are unacceptably restrictive for the country.
Ukrainian authorities have refused to talk with separatists because they consider them to be puppet governments under the authority of Russia. Talking to the separatists directly would give them legitimacy and would also help to legitimize the Kremlin’s false claim that the conflict in Ukraine is a civil war in which Russia is not involved, as has been done in the past.
Macron’s administration also disputed that the country had exerted pressure on Ukraine. In accordance with the Minsk agreements, French officials said Thursday’s meetings would focus on how Ukraine may advance toward the introduction of a draft law granting special status to the separatist areas and soliciting opinions from the separatists on it.
We are ready to put all feasible choices on the table, which will ultimately require permission not only from Ukrainians, but also from Russians, the officials said. “We are basically preparing to be able to put all practical possibilities on the table,” the sources added.
The former national security council adviser and current director of the Institute for Global Transformations in Kyiv, Oleksiy Semeniy, told ABC News on Wednesday that he did not feel it was politically feasible for Zelenskyy to engage in direct negotiations with the separatists.
In his opinion, an important indicator of success would be the announcement, following the negotiations, of the convening of a leaders’ summit, which would include Zelenskyy and Putin as participants.