The advent of a new Ukrainian President revived European efforts to re-engage with the “Minsk process”. President Macron and Chancellor Merkel had a telephonic discussion with President Putin, who (according to the Kremlin, and consistent with Russia’s constant refrain) emphasised the need to prioritise extending special status to the Donbas region, granting amnesty to the “freedom-fighters” and withdrawing forces and heavy weaponry to agreed positions. The French and German Foreign Ministers visited Kyiv for discussions with President Zelenskyy, who (according to the German Foreign Minister) confirmed that the Minsk agreements remain the basis of negotiations and that he was willing to work in the Normandy Format (of France, Germany, Ukraine and Russia).
The problem is that the Normandy format was pushed into the background after President Trump appointed a Special Envoy for Ukraine. There is no indication that the US is ready to relinquish this control over developments in Ukraine-Russia relations. At the joint press conference of the German Foreign Minister and the US Secretary of State in Berlin, a day after the former’s return from Kyiv, the German emphasised the importance of the Normandy format, President Zelenskyy’s support for it and the need for a functional dialogue with Russia. In his response, Secretary Pompeo ignored these points, noting only Germany’s cooperation on sanctions “to punish Russia for its aggression in Ukraine and its use of chemical weapons in the United Kingdom”.
May 30, 2019