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Normandy Four: Much Ado Over Ukraine

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Normandy Four: Much Ado Over Ukraine

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On the evening of December 9th, following the end of the Normandy Four discussions, the common agreed conclusions were published.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, French President Emmanuel Macron and Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed on the following:

  1. Immediate measures to stabilize the situation in the conflict area

The sides commit to a full and comprehensive implementation of the ceasefire, strengthened by the implementation of all necessary ceasefire support measures, before the end of the year 2019.

They will support the development and implementation of an updated demining plan, on the basis of the decision of the Trilateral Contact Group on demining activities, dated March 3, 2016.

They will support an agreement within the Trilateral Contact Group on three additional disengagement areas, with the aim of disengaging forces and equipment by the end of March 2020.

They encourage the Trilateral Contact Group to facilitate the release and exchange of conflict-related detainees by the end of the year, based on the principle of ”all for all“, starting with ”all identified for all identified“, with the understanding that international organisations including the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) be granted full and unconditional access to all detained persons.

They will support an agreement within the Trilateral Contact Group, within 30 days, on new crossing points along the line of contact, based primarily on humanitarian criteria.

They recall that the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) should be able to use all possibilities of the 21 March 2014 mandate, and have safe and secure access throughout Ukraine in order to fully implement its mandate.

  1. Measures to implement the political provisions of the Minsk agreements

The sides express interest in agreeing within the Normandy format (N4) and the Trilateral Contact Group on all the legal aspects of the Special Order of Local Self-Government – special status – of Certain Areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk Regions – as outlined in the Package of Measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements from 2015 – in order to ensure its functioning on a permanent basis.

They consider it necessary to incorporate the ”Steinmeier formula“ into the Ukrainian legislation, in accordance with the version agreed upon within the N4 and the Trilateral Contact Group.

  1. Follow up

They ask their Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Political Advisors to ensure the implementation of the agreements reached and they agree to have another meeting in this format within four months on the political and security conditions, inter alia for the organization of the local elections.

In addition, following Putin and Zelensky’s one on one meeting, the following agreements were made:

  • Full exchange of prisoners between the two sides, which is a point in the Minsk agreements. Furthermore, this isn’t anything special since prisoner exchanges between the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics and Ukraine take place regularly;
  • No agreements were reached on gas transit, there was simply an agreement for further negotiations;
  • There appears to be no withdrawal of troops since Ukraine seems unwilling to do so;
  • Ukraine wishes to be “given” control of the border and then elections are to be organized in the DPR and LPR, while Russia calls for elections, and following the results, then border control may be given to Kiev;
  • The Steinmeier formula and Minsk-2 should somehow be pushed into the legislation of Ukraine. How that would happen is questionable since Zelensky appears unwilling to agree to Minsk-2. Russia and Germany insist on prolonging the law on the “special status of Donbass”, because without it, Minsk-2 would not be feasible, although this special status can’t continue indefinitely;
  • By April 2020, three more points for disengagement must be decided on, with the situation at all other points will remain the same;
  • Crimea was not discussed at all;
  • There is supposed to be a “New Year” truce until the end of 2019.

In the press conference, following the Normandy Four talks, Zelensky outlined three principles that he would never defy as president of Ukraine.

“I want to outline a number of principles that I as the President of Ukraine will never defy. The first one is the impossibility of federalization. Ukraine is a unitary state. It is the invariable article of the Constitution and the inviolable principle of existence of the state.

The second such principle, the President said, is the impossibility of anyone’s influence on the vector of movement and development of Ukraine. The direction of the state movement will always be chosen exclusively by the Ukrainian people.

The third principle is the impossibility of reaching compromises on the settlement of the situation in Donbass through the cession of Ukrainian territories within the internationally recognized borders.”

Zelensky’s approach to the negotiations in the Normandy Four format is quite similar to former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. He’s making claims, and there’s quite little progress to back anything he’s saying.

The summit essentially decided for more prisoner swaps, which isn’t anything surprising and the disengagement of forces from 3 villages. In its entirety, it only showed that Putin and Zelensky could shake hands and were generally “pleasant” and “businesslike” with each other.

Kiev’s demands haven’t changed, but it is unrealistic. Providing border control to Ukraine and then organizing elections would mean that a sort of purge would be carried prior to the elections and only “the chosen” would be elected, nothing fair nor democratic in the situation.

If Russia somehow “uses its influence” to guarantee border control to Ukraine, that would mean Moscow is willingly inviting potentially millions refugees into the country, since many would flee when Kiev is allowed to carry out its “democratic cleansing.”

Zelensky furthermore admitted that it was very difficult to negotiate with Putin, it could be because his demands are unreasonable, or due to other reasons, it remains unclear.

“The face-to-face meeting [with Putin] should have lasted 20 minutes, but it lasted about an hour. […] Is it possible to negotiate with him? It is very difficult to negotiate. But today there were moments when we agreed on some issues,” Zelensky said.

According to him, Putin delves into each issue in detail, and “we begin to settle every word.”

“That is difficult. I’m just a different person. I’m a fast person. Let’s reach an agreement and move on. No, there’s a different, so to say, natural biomechanics here. Therefore, we will definitely see whether it is possible to reach an agreement on the whole or not,” Zelensky said.

The Normandy leaders agreed to regroup within four months, a dramatically shorter break in negotiations than the three years that passed since the last meeting.

Meanwhile, in the UN, the US tried to push another resolution on the “Militarization of Crimea” and, as all previous cases, failed, with not even a third of the needed votes for it to pass. Below is the voting outcome:

Normandy Four: Much Ado Over Ukraine

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