Foreign Minister of Ukraine Vadym Prystaiko / Photo from UNIAN

Vadym Prystaiko: If by year-end we're able to do a swap, then Normandy format summits make sense

18:00, 16 December 2019
20 min. 4690 Interview

Foreign Minister of Ukraine Vadym Prystaiko sat down with UNIAN to tell us about the outcome of the summit of Normandy Four leaders, impressions from Zelensky's first meeting with Putin, whether it is possible to "redraw" Minsk agreements, and why no one should be afraid of the "Steinmeier formula" in Ukrainian legislation.

On December 9, a summit of the Normandy Four leaders was held in Paris. Do you think the Russian side understood there were "red lines" that Ukraine would never cross?

I don't think that Russia has realized that there are "red lines" that Ukraine will never cross. I think the Russian side is trying to grasp this now. After all, had they understood this, both the rhetoric and the outcome would've been slightly different. Today, I see that the Russian side sticks to the same positions I've been seeing for the last five and a half years.

One such position is that Russia continues to deny that it is a party to the conflict, that it is occupying part of Ukraine, that it is them who attacked Ukraine. How can this be changed?

… And that their people are in our territory…

There are no changes to date. We all hoped that the Russian side would understand the civilized pressure that our partners had resorted to – the sanctions. However, Moscow is clearly demonstrating that they do not expect any political changes. That is, they are not ready for these changes. This applies, as you can see, to the statement that Russia, like France, and Germany, is only a party trying to help settle the "civil war" and so on. All of this is old rhetoric...

We have hoped for some understanding. In Ukraine, the political situation has changed, which even in theory does not allow us to talk about some mythical "Ukrainian fascists" and "Nazis" who allegedly seized power in Ukraine. Obviously, if our country is going through democratic elections for the second time, the "Nazis" are not coming to power, then I would expect that Russia, after all, adapts to these realities. But they don't.

They probably expect that there is still room for Ukraine to change positions. Those red lines that you are talking about have ensured that both parties have retained pretty much the same positions they had. We are trying to move on the track we inherited from our predecessors – the Minsk Process. There are certain things we need to complete. They have been formulated, and everyone's aware of them. France and Germany have approximately the same position.


Common conclusions were adopted following the summit. Is it to be assumed that Russia will fulfill its obligations if they previously didn't follow the agreements?

In principle, this document was upgraded every six months. These six months are enough for the parties to understand what is specifically expected of them at the leaders' summit. We started discussing it back in July. On September 2, the document was more or less approved by advisors… That was enough time to adapt approaches and prepare for decision-making.

We have now agreed that at the end of the year there will be three important events that will allow us to see whether progress can really be counted on. First, the release of "all confirmed" persons. However, we bear in mind that we need to get to the implementation of the "all for all" formula.

Second, it's about a sustainable, permanent, and comprehensive ceasefire. The announcement [of the ceasefire] will come December 20 or 21. And we will see if further progress is possible.

Another event, which is very important to us, will take place this week. At our request, the Red Cross will make another attempt to reach those territories, cross the line [of contact], and take part in the investigation into where are those nearly 500 persons (according to various estimates), who are reported missing. They'll need to reach every detainee and held person there, across the line of contact.

Until now, the Red Cross has never received such access. We have agreed with Putin about such access, and this week we will find out whether this happens or not.

As for the ceasefire, I understand that we are waiting for announcement of renewal of obligations in terms of ceasefire, the so-called new Christmas and New Year truce, right?

We do this as follows. The Trilateral Contact Group is entitled by the leaders to provide this technical solution – when, at what time and from when the ceasefire is announced, when the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission verifies it, and then, of course, the OSCE is given time, at least 24 hours, to prepare (they we need to have enough crews and technical capacities on the ground for verification), and then an agreed date is submitted ... We were planning somewhere closer to the 24th. The leaders were more cautious and asked to have time until the end of December, until the 31st.

In any case, there is enough time to do this.

Photo from UNIAN

As for the exchange of detainees, the list is being negotiated. Is there a guarantee that the Russian side will not manipulate these lists, as they have repeatedly done before?

There are no guarantees. Of course, if they had existed, probably these people would have long been released.

The difficult question is agreeing these lists, because there are several groups of persons we swap, as I repeatedly said before. Our first exchange, which was carried out smoothly, was about those who were held in Russian prisons and exchanged for those who were held in Ukrainian territory. Now it's a little more complicated. Now we are talking about those who are held in the territory of Crimea, the territory of Russia and across the line of contact [in the occupied part of Donetsk and Luhansk regions].

They are conditionally divided into three categories, but for us it is a big part of all the agreed names. There is a part that is beyond these lists, and there is a part that I mentioned before, this is a big part – several hundred missing persons. That is, their relatives believe that they are still alive and they just need to be included in these lists ...

Until the Red Cross mission arrives on the other side, verifies data and figures out whether these people are alive or not, we will be feeling that we might have missed out on someone or haven't mentioned someone, and that more people must be exchanged.

Should it be expected that by the end of the year the Ukrainian soldiers who have been held in captivity for four to five years, or even more, will come back to their families?

We have tried to include in these agreed lists all persons we're aware of.

The latest exchange took place under the "35 for 35" formula. What formula is being envisaged this time?

I don't want to call out any numbers. They have not been finalized yet. In addition, the current exchange requires a more flexible approach and there will be unequal numbers of people. It all depends on what the marginal possibilities are for negotiating teams.

Photo from UNIAN

Is it that we are ready to hand over three or four times more people to release 77 of Ukrainians, according to the latest data?

We are ready to go for very serious compromises in order to get as many people as we can.

The limit of our compromise was demonstrated, as you recall, regarding our sailors. We were supposed to actually get 24 people, according to the tribunal's ruling, but we couldn't wait for too long while they're held behind bars. Therefore, we were forced to hand over 24 people in exchange. Moreover, regarding some of those people there were very dubious decisions made in terms of their political weight. However, we went for it. The humanitarian component prevailed in decision-making.

This time, we do not have that many people to swap in equal terms. Therefore, it is an even more sensitive exchange. And every word spoken, including in the media, will have influence on the fate of someone who is held behind bars.

Does the Russian side continue to deny the fact that some persons, who we're sure are being held in the occupied part of Donbas or in Russian prisons, are actually held there?

This time, it is not only the Russian side. There is also a party to the humanitarian subgroup [in negotiations at the Minsk Trilateral Contact Group]. Let's say it's the "authorities" of the occupied territories. They are also involved in this process, which further complicates the situation.

Leaders of the Normandy Four supported the continued process of disengagement of forces and weapons from the line of contact, in particular in three additional sections, which should be completed by the end of March 2020. Are these sites already identified and where can such disengagement occur?

The Ukrainian side has completed the identification of these sites. However, we have several alternatives available. These sites will be considered and agreed upon within one of the sub-groups of the Trilateral Contact Group.

We believe that at this stage disengagement must be done in the areas of significant humanitarian importance. This is a priority for these three or four, or whatever sites we will agree on.


Are these sites likely to be agreed upon within the Trilateral Contact Group this year?

It will be done as fast as possible. Even the next meeting [December 18] would suit us.

So will we be offering two or three such combinations?

We have a combination of those sites where we could disengage. Our experience suggests that they don't always coincide. We should expect that mirrored disengagement will be carried out by the other side. This obviously requires agreements, so we still have a few suggestions left that will allow us to maneuver during the negotiations.

You said that priority sites for the disengagement are those of significant humanitarian importance. Can you clarify where this can take place?

We think that it is desirable for us to have a site that provides, for example, additional opportunities for the people to cross the contact line. In particular, the sites where it is possible to open a checkpoint so that a certain part of the population can cross the line of contact and have access to medical services, banking services, and pensions. We are trying to help people from the other side to somehow regain their connection with Ukraine.

Is it possible to have disengagement near major cities of strategic importance – Mariupol and Avdiyivka? Or will it be a disengagement alike one done in an area near the village of Petrivske, somewhere beyond town limits?

Petrivske was agreed upon in advance. The site has long been scheduled, since 2016, and therefore it has not changed much.

This time, we approach the situation with completely different plans. It's not just re-confirmation and re-disengagement, it's new disengagement sites. We have to carefully work them out in terms of security. And, while we bear in mind those humanitarian issues, the leading role here is with our military, our General Staff.

Incidentally, it was President Zelensky who proposed the word "humanitarian" for the final communiqué at the Normandy Four summit. Unfortunately, the leaders did not agree to call these sites "humanitarian". However, this is our proposal, and it remains on the table.

Photo from UNIAN

However, the leaders expressed their wish to identify new possible checkpoints and their opening within 30 days. Is it a concurrent process regarding these disengagement sites or is it a separate process?

This is a simultaneous process because the obvious first potential site is Zolote, where the Ukrainian side has long built a checkpoint, and we are just waiting for it to be opened. No relevant work has been done on the other side. This is site number one. We are ready there, we have a checkpoint there, but we will continue to work... We already have a positive experience of Chonhar, for example. A lot of work has been done there, a checkpoint has been set up in line with high standards. We can multiply this experience by opening new checkpoints.

If a new section is identified to open a new checkpoint, is it possible that it will be a railway station with passenger services?

I do not rule out either passenger or freight services. We have a lot of work to do to restore this connection. Of course, if there is infrastructure, it is not difficult to calculate where there are motorways, where there are railways, and where people are likely to cross by foot. But it's not only that. There are certain areas that are not directly related to crossings.

Leaders of the Normandy Four consider it necessary to incorporate the "Steinmeier formula" into Ukrainian legislation. Under what circumstances will the Ukrainian side agree to this step?

We are ready to take this step by introducing it into Ukrainian law, and most likely it will be integrated into the [Donbas] special status law.

At present, the Verkhovna Rada has voted to extend for one year the law on special order of local self-government in certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions. And this provision is not there. Why did you decide to not rush with taking this step so far?

This is not about "not rushing". This is about us not having enough time to complete all the necessary steps before the end of the year for this law to work by an updated formula. If we start to amend this law now, to see specifically how it should look like, how this formula will be fixed, we simply will not physically have enough time until December 31, when the current law expires.

All parties to the Normandy Four have agreed to allow the Ukrainian side to extend the law to simply have enough time for normal work by Parliament. We do not want our Parliament to be in a rush without understanding what's happening and what's being done.

Is it possible to say that in this way the "Steinmeier formula" has already been legalized by Ukraine and agreed so that we can no longer go back and refuse from implementing it?

The Steinmeyer Formula has been agreed by us and by the Trilateral Contact Group. The question is how it will be implemented in Ukrainian legislation – where and to what extent. But the very idea of ​​the formula that the final political solution lies in the field of legitimate elections, which must be confirmed by an independent international organization, is precisely a compromise reached in 2016.

Photo from UNIAN

The law on the special order of local self-government is now being applied on a temporary basis – for one year. But the Package of Measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Arrangements stated the need for its implementation on a permanent basis. What needs to happen for the Ukrainian authorities to agree to this?

You see, we're coming back to the same nuance, again. First we spell one thing in Minsk, then we stop short of fulfilling all our promises, leaving open space to the incumbent authorities, who are forced to seek a solution.

You are absolutely right, and many have noted it, including our partners in the Normandy Quartet: the legislation that we have in force should become permanent, as Minsk agreements say. But it precisely to this end that this creative "Steinmeier formula" was invented in 2016, to explain when and at what point this permanent status comes in force (and when it is even possible).

If the Steinmeier formula is fully agreed, is it possible to make any adjustments to its text?

The question is not in the text. The idea behind the formula itself is not that this piece should appear in the law itself. The question about the formula is that it must be implemented in the new law.

When we read how our MPs draw up this law, it will be the final version of implementation of the "Steinmeier formula" in Ukrainian legislation. Obviously, our legislators may not be comfortable with its form, but its idea, agreed by all parties, must stay.

No one is saying that the "Steinmeier formula" should be adopted by a separate law or a separate clause. And even the leaders of the Normandy Four say that it's the implementation of the agreed "Steinmeier formula" in Ukrainian legislation that's important.

For example, President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky said that we would not fix it in the law until certain conditions have been fulfilled: until hostilities cease altogether, Russia-controlled illegal armed groups are disarmed, and troops are withdrawn. Do we specifically insist that these conditions must be fulfilled by the time we enshrine this formula in law?

We insisted on this... This is one of the options. Another option is that the Steinmeier formula itself is not safe or dangerous. It is aimed at holding elections. But we don't even have a law under which these elections can be held. Moreover, holding elections implies fulfilling all of the so-called Copenhagen criteria, which are also spelled out. There, in particular, there is a security situation that allows participation of all parties, all media, and observers. It's all spelled out, too. That is, despite the fact that the Steinmeier formula has become a compromise to some degree, it is unable to resolve all issues. We need everyone's goodwill here, including of our international partners, who must verify the elections (if we ever get to them) and say that the elections have indeed taken place. And we need to pass a law [on local elections in Donbas] that does not yet exist.

The Steinmeier formula will eventually work out if all the elements are in place.

Following the Paris summit, we did not hear the main point: when will the militants be disarmed and Russian troops withdrawn?

I agree with you, absolutely, we didn't hear that.

Shouldn't any arrangements be made and no steps taken until there is a clear understanding of when exactly Russian troops will be withdrawn and militants disarmed?

According to Putin, this should happen according to the Minsk agreements after the political settlement is completed.

And what's you opinion?

In the view of the Ukrainian side, which we – both this and the previous government – have stated, to create sufficient conditions for political settlement, security should be in place. This is exactly the difference that the "Steinmeier formula" is trying to solve.

At a final press conference, French President Emmanuel Macron said that foreign ministers, including you, and foreign policy advisors will be tasked with preparing security and political conditions within four months to allow local elections to be held in the future. What will be our position during these consultations? What will we stand for?

It's very simple – we have already started our work. I have already met with head of the ODIHR [Ingibjörg Solrun Gisladotir]. This is the Office that must verify that elections meet high democratic standards.

Today I also met with the UN Secretary-General, with whom we also talked about the experience of election holding, election observers, possible modalities, and what a peacekeeping mission should look like if we come to that. This is the job of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs – to try to create sufficient conditions necessary for this election to take place.

After that, we plan to meet with experts. Next, we want to talk to our Central Election Commission, which has to say what criteria are sufficient and what is needed [for possible elections], and what needs to be done step by step.

Then we will be able to get together in four months and say that we have actually done our "homework", and that this or that needs to be done for the elections to be held. And if these criteria are met, the elections will be held. If not, we're sorry. Here's the set we need.

One of the most difficult issues at the talks was the border issue – regaining control of the border.

I agree.

We insist that this should happen before the elections. Will this be an issue that you will insist on meeting with other foreign ministers? Should the issue of regaining control of the border be finally agreed upon by the next meeting of the leaders in four months?

This is an issue where we have not been able to make any progress on. Indeed, we insist, we demand, we recommend, and we offer. Anything you can use, any verb. But there's no progress on the issue.

If the situation does not change within four months, will the leaders meet?

I think that the leaders' meeting will be held because there are other issues that are being discussed, despite the fact that the border is of key importance for us. We cannot ignore people who have not yet been exchanged. Right?


That is, we need to do this anyway… And we will see what changes will take place. If they take place by the end of the year, if we can exchange people, these meetings make sense.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel noted that the Minsk agreements can be adapted to the current realities. Will you insist on making some adjustments?

We do insist. But there is nothing to hide here – from the Russian side we do not see any willingness toward their adaptation. They read the text in parts they see fit. They read it as the absolute Bible. Where it is not convenient for them, unfortunately, we find no feedback.

Photo from UNIAN

What if the situation doesn't change?

It will run into a dead end.

And what if this comes to a point when it is finally clear that the Minsk agreements are impossible to implement? What if they really need to be adapted to realities, otherwise there's no movement? What are our actions in such a "deadlock" situation?

They indeed are unrealistic, at least because they have terminological and chronological flaws. For example, there are dates laid down that have long passed.

We can consider adaptation as a minimum necessary thing to be done. Relatively speaking, we'll need to change dates. It is also possible to change to some extent the configuration of the Minsk arrangements. But today, neither Ukraine, nor Russia, nor the international community has any readiness to fully revise the Minsk agreements.

How do you rate the Normandy summit given that it was Zelensky's first meeting with Putin?

It was the first meeting in every sense, including in terms of tentatively feeling each other's positions. Well, obviously, I think that Putin and his advisors thought (or, say, Putin was told) that the new president of Ukraine was different from his predecessor. He's new by default. This is a different person, and they probably expected to see some over-flexibility in addressing the issues that are principled to us. But our "red lines" remain in place. And they are pretty clear.

We have said that Ukraine will remain a unitary state with its recognized borders, which we must seek. Federalization is off the table. Amendments to the Constitution are only to the extent that we have described that decentralization grants special rights to all regions, including those beyond [the contact line]. These "red lines" remained in place, and it seemed to me that the Russian side was somewhat disappointed by such a firm principled position of Zelensky and his team.

What atmosphere prevailed in these negotiations?

It was much better than before, which is in fact okay for a first meeting.

Were there any moments where the Russian side voiced any threats in one form or another?

It doesn't work the way you want to see on TV, or as seen in movies. Of course, no direct threats are voiced. But it is enough for those working in this field to understand these threats. Everyone is well aware of the level of dangers and threats.

Have you ever felt that the Russian side has some weak spots where we can make a hit?

(Smiles) If I felt there were any, I wouldn't share with you. To say now that we have felt the weak spot somewhere so that the Russian side immediately "fixes" it would be short-sighted, to say the least.

Photo from UNIAN

What was the difference between the four leaders' working session and the meeting between Putin and Zelensky?

The thing is, we had bilateral meetings with all leaders. It is impossible to say here how different this one was, because our delegation used this moment to be able to have all those meetings.

Certainly, the meetings with France and Germany are different from that with the Russian Federation, which is the occupying state which attacked us and supports the separatist forces, providing assistance to them. Obviously, these conversations are different.

France and Germany are trying to find a way out as soon as possible, understanding that some flexibility is needed, but also hearing from Ukraine what the principled positions and the "red lines" are. The Russian side is openly annoyed here that there is no progress from expectations.

What role did Macron and Merkel play in these negotiations? Did they support us or did they merely act as mediators?

It seems to me that they did not only support us. They have also been weary of those poor results over the recent years, and so they were enthusiastic here, perceiving that the Ukrainian side has done a lot to make this meeting happen in the first place. This was rated positively. And, of course, the parties hoped that more progress could be made.

But this is negotiations. At least they weren't as long as the first Minsk meeting, but there were complicated hours of conversation.

Is the next meeting of Normandy Four leaders scheduled to be held in Berlin?

This is a proposal of the German side. In principle, this is obvious: after Paris comes Berlin. This has happened before.

Photo from UNIAN

Will it be held in April?

Yes, it will be April. The date of April 9 was jokingly called, so as not to lose a single day in four months. But, again, this is not the Bible. It can happen any day during April.

The issue of preparing a bilateral White House meeting  between President Volodymyr Zelensky and U.S. President Donald Trump was actively discussed this year. In light of the recent developments in the U.S. around the impeachment probe, were these negotiations suspended? Is Zelensky's visit to the U.S. not being planned any longer?

Negotiations on the date are not an ongoing process at all. All parties are aware that there has been an invitation. It is on the table, relatively speaking. President Zelensky told President Trump about this: "Thanks for the invitation, but you forgot to name a date." Everyone laughed. But it was him just once again reminding him of the issue and highlighting it.

Diplomatic advisors and the foreign minister are working to make this happen.

You are probably right, and obviously it is not the best time [for the visit] amid an impeachment inquiry. Unfortunately for us, Ukraine is also being mentioned there. Therefore, we should at least wait for the investigation to be completed. This is an internal affair of the U.S. Ukraine is just waiting for the invitation.

So, until the investigation is complete, will we won't move forward on this, will we?

It depends on the U.S. side. If tomorrow they call us and say, "Please, we have found a date", and this is, relatively speaking, the 10th, we will look at the schedule and say: "Fine" or "Sorry, let's do this on the 11th".

That is, the conversation is purely technical. There is nothing stopping us from refueling the plane and setting off.

What assistance do we expect from the United States next year?

You have seen that the documents have been signed that the U.S. aid will increase to $300 million. Despite all the rumors that the U.S. President is putting it on hold, it has even increased.

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What are the prospects for the supplies of sales of more Javelins or other serious weapons?

This is also being discussed. Part of this money will be used for lethal aid. We have a certain list of what our Army needs right now. And from this list there's something the United States is ready to give right now. Next, there is a competitive selection process for applications...

You know that nobody sends us money in shoe boxes. This money is used to produce, acquire, and supply the equipment and weapons we need.

It has been repeatedly stated that the possibilities of enhancing Ukraine's naval potential and coastal defenses in general are being explored. In this regard, what do we expect next year?

We need more ships. We are also working on this. We need radars to control the surface and the area beyond the horizon. We need missile systems that will allow us to strengthen the missile shield while we're building our own. We need training. We need secure communications. We need satellite imagery. We need it all, and the list is also known to our American partners. In the negotiation process, we simply try to choose what is of the highest priority.

In addition to the U.S., are we discussing these issues with other partners?

We are discussing this with NATO. And part of that is the so-called Black Sea Package, in which opportunities are shared [between Allies]. Something is covered by the United States, something is covered by other NATO partners.

The Alliance has repeatedly stated that arms should be discussed directly with member states and not with NATO as a whole.

Absolutely. Speaking purely bureaucratically, there is an alliance called NATO that has no own troops and, as you know, their only capabilities are AWACS planes. The Alliance does not have its own armed forces, and when people in the streets shout about some "NATO troops", we realize that there are really no NATO troops. There are troops of NATO Allies. The military industry is the same, it belongs to certain countries. There are certain export restrictions in those countries.

For example, we need some specialized radar available in a specific country, because NATO, despite its competition, has a clear specialization. We know exactly where such radar is available. There is a special agency that does procurement and helps all countries. And we also have access to this agency's databases and quotes. That is, if we need any special weapons, we can contact this specialized NATO agency to help us buy them at a good price in a particular country.

How do you assess Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov's visit to Washington immediately after the Normandy Four summit? The meeting was held behind closed doors for many hours and we do not know anything about what was said there.

It's you who don't know anything. We know something that was happening there. We know that part of the conversation was dedicated to Ukraine.

But the timing you are talking about is most likely a coincidence. That's because Lavrov didn't even wait till the end of the negotiations [in Paris]. He had to leave the Elysee Palace because he had to fly off. Obviously, such meetings are prepared for a long time. It's just a coincidence that this visit right after the meeting in Paris.

After the resignation of Kurt Volker, are there any talks underway on a new person to be appointed to the post of U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine?

I spoke with the State Department envoy that it was interesting for us to have a person who would be able to lead the American negotiation team. We were talking about different options for implementing this. It may be someone like Victoria Nuland when she was an official of the State Department and at the same time Assistant Secretary of State in charge of the region.

This is convenient in the context that the person is aware of what is happening in this region. You have people who work professionally, that is, diplomats who work in these areas.

On the other hand, there was Kurt Walker who did his thing. He was relieved of his daily duties in all directions and could focus on the "Normandy" direction exclusively.

Both options are interesting in their own right, and they are important to us. We leave the choice to our American partners how this important communication channel can be implemented.

The direct communication channel was set up at the level of Assistant to the President of the Russian Federation Vladislav Surkov and Kurt Volker. Frankly, we feel the shortage of such efforts from the U.S. side, and we would like this position to be filled in any form as soon as possible.

Has U.S. side agreed to issue and agrement to Ukraine's new ambassador?

We have already received an agrement.

And have we already decided on the nomination?

We decided two months ago.

Will it be Volodymyr Yelchenko?

This is our current representative at the UN, Volodymyr Yelchenko.

How about the appointment of ambassadors to other countries?

We have already received agrements regarding a certain number of ambassadors.  We have already fully prepared. For some  of them, decrees have been drafter. In the near future, we will be able to promulgate decrees on the appointment of a number of leaders of important missions.

I'd also like to ask questions about Crimea. President Zelensky said he had been preparing for the Normandy Four Summit in order to raise the issue of Crimea. But in the end, he only mentioned the peninsula in his opening address.

In the final address, he also spoke about it.

Why don't we use venues like the Summit to exert pressure on this issue, too? After all, there is no other format, as we know?

We are hostages of the format that was proposed, the Minsk format. And the Minsk format really did not foresee the issue of Crimea at all.

But it is possible to raise the issue at any moment ...

We do raise many things, everything that interests us. Crimea is one of those issues.

What do you think needs to be done to keep Crimea on the international agenda and to intensify the debate on its return, to prevent Russia from saying that this is a "closed question" that it's their territory?

We try to keep both issues on the agenda, in parallel lines, but there are always priorities. If you have people being killed (even during the summit, several people died in Donbas, right on that day), then we just have to talk about it. This is a priority issue. However, the issue of Crimea remains on the agenda. Simply, it was not discussed in detail at a particular moment.

The previous president of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, announced the Geneva Plus initiative. Are the new team now considering any possibility of launching a separate format relating to the de-occupation of Crimea?

We offered many formats. So far, they have not yet been implemented either within the OSCE or the UN. There is a group discussing de-occupation of Crimea, but its activities have not yet been structured. That is, it is not at the level of the Normandy negotiations.

What is your overall mood after the Paris Summit?

I would call it cautious optimism, and this cautious optimism will expire on December 31, 2019.

Vitaliy Sayenko

Translated by Yevgeny Matyushenko

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