Latest High-Level Talks with Russia, Germany, and France Underscore Lack of Progress on War in Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin (l), German Chancellor Angela Merkel (c-r), French President Francois Hollande (c-l), and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (r) are seen attending their Normandy Format meeting in Minsk, Belarus, on 11 February 2015, which resulted in the repeatedly violated Minsk II ceasefire agreement. Photo: Mykola Lazarenko/EPA/REX/Shutterstock

  • Teleconference among Putin, Merkel, Hollande, and Poroshenko has demonstrated no progress has been made on ending the war in Ukraine’s Donbass region.
  • The leaders from the so called Normandy Four have reiterated the need to abide by the 2015 Minsk II ceasefire deal which has been broken repeatedly.
  • The ceasefire was negotiated anew on March 29 by the Normandy Format.
  • The leaders agreed the warring parties should stick to the principle ofall-for-all prisoner exchange.
  • French President Hollande has bid farewell to the Normandy Format as his term is about to expire.

A telephone conversation among the leaders of Russia, Germany, France, and Ukraine, the so called Normandy Format (or Normandy Four), appears to have underscored that there is no end in sight to the ongoing war in Ukraine’s Donbass region where a pro-Russian insurgency has been in progress since 2014.

Led by President Vladimir Putin, in February-March 2014, Russia occupied and then annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in the Black Sea. The move was in reaction to the Euromaidan Revolution in Kiev which ousted pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych and promised to bring Ukraine closer to the West, including through EU and NATO membership.

Shortly after Russia’s seizure of Crimea, a pro-Russian insurgency possibly instigated and aided by Moscow began in the Donbass region in Eastern Ukraine and has been raging ever since.

Putin’s government has denied any official involvement in Donbass, stating that any Russian citizens who might be partaking in the conflict do so at their own discretion.

In February 2015, the leaders of Russia, Germany, France, and Ukraine – Vladimir Putin, Angela Merkel, Francois Hollande, and Petro Poroshenko – negotiated the so called Minsk II Agreement, under which warring parties are to stick to a full ceasefire, withdraw heavy weapons from the frontline to establish a security zone, and release all hostages on the basis of an “all for all” exchange.

The Minsk II ceasefire deal has been broken many times on the 400 km (250-mile) frontline between the Ukrainian troops and the forces of the so called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics established in the rebel-controlled zones.

Thus, in essence the war in Donbass has become a “frozen conflict” with “hot” fighting.

‘All for All’

Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande, and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko had a telephone conversation on Tuesday on the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine, the press services of each of the involved leaders announced.

None of them, however, informed of any meaningful progress, basically reiterating well-known diplomatic statements.

“The leaders of the Normandy Four countries reaffirmed their commitment to the Minsk Agreements on security and political settlement,” according to a joint press statement released by both the Russian Presidency and the Ukrainian Presidency.

According to the release, the Normandy Four leaders welcomed a decision to reinstate an Easter truce, agreed at a March 29 meeting of their Contact Group.

The leaders called for stepping up efforts to resolve issues related to the all-for-all prisoner exchange between the warring parties, and condemned threats against the Special Monitoring Mission in Donbass of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

The leaders thanked President of France Francois Hollande, who is at the end of his term, with France’s presidential elections scheduled for April 23, for his efforts within the Normandy Four and expressed hope that the work in this format would carry on with the next French President.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged all parties in the so-called Normandy contact group to “comply” with the peace deal known as Minsk II, according to deputy government spokesman Ulrike Demmer, as cited by DW.

The German government called on Ukrainian forces and pro-Russia separatists to progress on the issue of exchanging prisoners of war, “which is crucial for establishing trust for a political solution”.

Last Friday, the mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) special monitoring mission in Ukraine reported “more ceasefire violations” in the Donetsk region, and “fewer ceasefire violations” in the Luhansk region.

The war in Ukraine’s Donbass region has so far resulted in nearly 10,000 deaths and millions of displaced persons.

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