Russia & Ukraine find common ground
Russian and Ukrainian negotiators have agreed that a permanent ceasefire in Ukraine’s war-torn Donbass region must be observed “unconditionally,” following talks held as part of the Normandy Format, which also includes France and Germany.
The group met in Paris on Wednesday to discuss de-escalation in the region amid an ongoing standoff between Russia and Western nations, who have accused Moscow of planning an imminent invasion of Ukraine, which the Kremlin denies. The meeting lasted for over eight hours.
After discussions concluded, Moscow’s chief negotiator Dmitry Kozak said that talks had “not been simple,” but “despite all the differences in interpretations, we agreed that the cease-fire must be maintained by all the parties in line with the accords.”
Ukrainian representative Andrey Yermak said that all parties were in favor of a permanent ceasefire, and called the renewal of the Normandy Format talks a “very positive signal” for the prospects of de-escalation.
The Élysée, which hosted the meeting, confirmed that the envoys “support unconditional respect for the cease-fire and full adherence to the cease-fire strengthening measures of July 22, 2020, regardless of differences on other issues relating to the implementation of the Minsk agreements.” The parties will meet again in Berlin in two weeks for further discussions.
The group of four nations first convened in 2014, on the 70th anniversary of the D-Day Allied landings in Normandy during World War II. The fighting in Donbass had broken out earlier that year, following the 2014 Maidan, which saw then-Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich ousted. Separatists in the eastern region of the country established self-declared breakaway republics, and Kiev has accused Russia of supporting the rebels and fueling an ongoing civil war. Moscow does not officially recognize the republics’ legitimacy and denies being a party to the conflict.
The Minsk Protocols, signed by Ukraine, Russia, and the intergovernmental organization OSCE in 2014 and 2015, were meant to bring an end to the war, but so far the agreements have yet to be implemented. Moscow has said that it stands by the protocols, and has accused Kiev of failing to live up to its side of the bargain by refusing to negotiate with the leaders of the breakaway regions. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has claimed that the territories are Russian proxies and insisted he should meet with President Vladimir Putin instead.
In his statement following Wednesday’s meeting, Russia’s representative added that the “obligation” to implement the agreements “lies with the armed forces of Ukraine and the armed formations of the Donetsk People's Republic and Luhansk People's Republic.”