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15 Dec, 2021 19:12

New German foreign minister calls for renewed talks on eastern Ukraine

New German foreign minister calls for renewed talks on eastern Ukraine

Germany's foreign minister has called on Russia and Ukraine to resume talks over the Donbass conflict to ease tensions around concerns about a reportedly increased Russian troop presence on the frontier between the two countries.

Speaking during a trip to Stockholm, Annalena Baerbock suggested restarting the Normandy Format talks – named after those first held informally in Normandy seven years ago – between Germany, Russia, Ukraine, and France, with the aim of bringing peace to the region.

The conflict in the Donbass, in eastern Ukraine, began following the events of the 2014 Maidan, when violent street protests toppled the democratically elected government. This eventually led to two self-proclaimed republics, Donetsk (DPR) and Luhansk (LPR), declaring independence in a move not recognized by Russia, Ukraine, or any UN state. The region has seen sporadic fighting ever since. According to Kiev, Moscow is backing the separatists and is responsible for the conflict.

Baerbock’s push to bring all parties back to the table comes shortly after she spoke by phone with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba. Writing on Twitter, the German Foreign Office said Berlin “stands in full solidarity” with Ukraine, and that any “interference” by Russia “would have massive economic and diplomatic consequences.” 

Baerbock also spoke to her Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, and, in that call too, urged that a Normandy Format meeting be held in the near future.

Russia has called for a diplomatic solution to be found to the issues in eastern Ukraine, and has repeatedly asked Kiev to comply with the Minsk Protocol, a ceasefire agreement signed in 2014. Among other matters, the agreement includes a provision for the decentralization of power in the Donbass region, potentially allowing the DPR and LPR to become autonomous areas of Ukraine.

The current tensions on the border between Russia and Ukraine started heating up in November. Earlier this month, multiple Western media outlets began to suggest that conflict was just around the corner, and alleging that Moscow was building up its manpower on the Ukrainian border. The Kremlin has repeatedly denied planning an invasion.