Interview: How relevant is the Paris Peace Summit to end Conflict in Ukraine

German Chancelor Angela Merkel with French President Emmanuel Macron and Russian President Vladimir Putin

Donbass region of Ukraine is facing a violent crisis since 2014. Every day, the fight between separatists and the Ukrainian government is turning violent causing around 13,000 deaths and forcing many others to seek aid.

Leaders from France, Germany, Ukraine and Russia, in the Normandy Format Talk, are meeting today (December 9) in Paris. This will be the first occasion when the newly elected Ukrainian President Zelensky will face Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Kootneeti’s Editor for the Middle East and Eastern Europe, Amit Sinha in an interview, speak to Armen Oganesyan – Editor-in-Chief of International Affairs Journal – Russia (A journal by the Russian Foreign Ministry) on a wide range of topics revolving around the Paris Peace Talks on Ukraine. Here are the excerpts:

How does Russia see Ukraine Peace Summit for the peace in the region? Especially, in the context of Crimea?

Russia views the upcoming talks in the context of the Minsk agreements, but definitely not in the context of Crimea. For Russia, the issue of Crimea is a case closed, as the people of Crimea overwhelmingly voted to reunite with Russia in a referendum.

What this summit will bring to the Bilateral Relations between Kyiv and Moscow. Can we see relations normalising between two? How does Russia see the role of the other two countries, Germany and France who are involved in this summit?

Ukrainian President Zelensky

It all depends on the position of the Kiev authorities, whose contradictory and vague actions reflect their desire to introduce one-sided amendments to the Minsk accords. There is no more time left for manoeuvring and looking back on their radical nationalist opposition at home. Donbass needs to be granted a special status, just as envisaged by the Minsk agreements; there must be no more bombardment of civilian targets, and the security of the civilian population must be guaranteed. My impression is that [President] Zelensky is not yet ready to make this happen, even though we have seen some positive changes in his policy vis-à-vis Donbass, such as his call for a ceasefire and an exchange of POWs between the conflicting sides.

Until now, Germany and France have acted as observers empathizing with Kiev. However, they have recently been waking up to the fact that Russia is not a party to this conflict and getting increasingly frustrated by Kiev’s dodging the implementation of the terms of the Minsk accords. The point is whether this new and more objective vision of Berlin and Paris is able to impact the Ukrainian authorities’ policy.

Peace is the top-most agenda in this summit. So it was, after the Minsk Agreement, which, however, gets violated and East Ukrainian region faced more turmoil. What are the possibilities of success of this Summit?

I think these chances are not very high. Much will depend on whether Kiev acknowledges the need to engage in a direct dialogue with representatives of Donbass, a prospect vehemently rejected by the radical opposition which official Kiev fear so much. The success of the Paris summit depends on their ability to overcome these fears.

What can be the other top-agendas on the table for this Summit? As Russia is pushing hard its gas-pipeline work throughout Europe, bypassing Ukrainian territory, can this issue acquire a spot in the discussions?

Russia is not going to bypass the Ukrainian territory and has never made any statements to this effect. For Gazprom, this is an economic, not political, matter. Moreover, it is trying to extend the [gas transit] contract to the end of this year. Russia has on many occasions said it is ready to slash prices and offer the Ukrainians tariffs commensurate with those of the Nord Stream 2 project. I guess that this subject will be discussed during bilateral contacts on the sidelines of the Paris meeting, as Europe is as much interested as Russia and Ukraine in extending the contract, which has existed a whole ten years now.

Can the Russian side include the Sea of Azov and the maritime businesses like fishing which are directly impacted due to ongoing crisis in the area during the Peace Summit?

The Sea of Azov and Crimea on Map/ Google map

In 2004, Russia and Ukraine signed an agreement on cooperation in the use of the Sea of Azov, whereby the sea is historically internal waters of both the Russian Federation and Ukraine. There is also an agreement inked in 2012 on measures ensuring the security of navigation in the Sea of Azov. Presently, the two countries are discussing a protocol on fisheries regulation in the Sea of Azov. Officials at Russia’s State Agency for Fisheries hope that “everything will be legalized and signed” before next year kicks in.

What are your views on the ongoing Separatist movement and rebels in East Ukraine? Can this peace summit help to neutralise them?

In the wake of the 2014 coup in Kiev, the residents of southeastern Ukraine overwhelmingly proclaimed their right to preserve and develop their native language as well as ensure a special status for their region. The people of Donbass were denied these rights by the new authorities in Kiev, who resorted to military force and repressions against their fellow countrymen. However, it is exactly these demands that eventually found their way into the text of the Minsk accords as fully legitimate and, therefore, rule out any attempts to brand the people of Donbass as separatists. It is precisely the Kiev authorities who unleashed a veritable civil war in their country’s east.

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Kootneeti Team

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Amit Sinha

Amit Sinha is Communication Director at The Kootneeti. He has previously worked as a Consultant with the United Nations. He can be reached at || Twitter: @amitsinha_9

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