German Chancellor Angela Merkel (left) and French President Francois Hollande (right) meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, on Feb. 6. Source: Konstantin Zavrazhin / RG
On Friday, Feb. 6 German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande arrived in Moscow for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin about the situation in Ukraine. Merkel and Hollande had spent the previous day in Kiev, where they met with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko for about five hours.
Although media had speculated that the meetings in Moscow could lead to a breakthrough in finding a resolution to the crisis, after the meeting at the Kremlin an announcement was made that additional discussions would take place on Sunday by telephone between representatives of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine.
Russian Presidential Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov called the meeting between Hollande, Merkel and Putin “constructive and meaningful,” adding, "at the present moment we are working to prepare a text of the possible joint document on the implementation of the Minsk Agreements."
The news that the German and French leaders would visit Kiev and Moscow on Feb. 5 and 6 was unexpected, and on the eve of their visits, the European leaders provided little comment on the aims and goals of their initiative.
Hollande for his part made it clear that he and Merkel did not intend to discuss previously drafted documents, but rather to introduce a new proposal. He also clarified that the new plan would be based on the principle of Ukraine's territorial integrity.
After the talks in Kiev, Poroshenko's assistant Valery Chalyi said that the proposals discussed were not "the Putin plan," but rather "a vision of the implementation of the Minsk Agreements that was produced through the sides' common efforts that started the day before."
The Minsk Agreements, which were signed in the Belarusian capital on Sept. 5 and 9, 2014, included terms for a ceasefire, the withdrawal of heavy arms, Kiev's approval of a special status for the Donetsk and Lugansk Regions, amnesty for the militias, as well as the creation of a monitoring group that would observe the cessation of military activities. The agreements were never fully implemented.
Chalyi’s comments were in response to reporting by the U.S. media that Putin had proposed a new ceasefire plan that moved the demarcation line the current front line of the conflict and that Kiev concede more autonomy to the rebellious east. According to the Russian daily Kommersant, Putin’s proposals also included the deployment of peacekeepers between the warring sides.
According to Maxim Bratersky, a professor in the Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow, the European leaders' shuttle diplomacy can lead toresults.
Bratersky thinks that it is possible for all sides to agree on the line of demarcation and the deployment of the peacekeepers, however defining the future status of the Donetsk and Lugansk Regions will be harder.
Bratersky says that to resolve the political problems for the long term,Kiev must decide what form the Ukrainian state will take in the future – will be it be a federation, or a state with a strong central government.
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