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Unanswered Questions from the Normandy Summit in Paris
16 December, 2019
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From left to right: Servant of the People MP Sviatoslav Yurash, program host Andriy Kulykov, political analyst Maria Zolkina, and Parliamentary Foreign Committee expert Mykola Kapitonenko. hromadske

The Normandy format summit in Paris has come and gone, yet many unanswered questions remain about the future of the peace process in Ukraine. Prime among those is the progress made in Paris, and whether Ukrainian negotiators and diplomats will be able to finagle their unruly Russian counterparts into a semblance of a deal.

But, says political analyst Maria Zolkina, there’s scarce evidence for a change in the Russian position. “I don’t see now any concrete prospects for Russia to withdraw its forces out of the occupied parts of the Donbas, or to proceed with the issue of disarmament or regaining control over the border,” Zolkina commented.

Yet there may still be hope for a diplomatic resolution. Servant of the People MP Sviatoslav Yurash, who sits on the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee, says that there were “many signs that this was a positive step”, citing developments like a new agreement on a prisoner exchange, which the parties at the summit stated should be completed by the new year, though Yurash added that focus should be given to the next phase of the process, which is to be another Normandy summit in Berlin in four months.

If the Russian position fails to budge, however, then Parliamentary Foreign Committee expert Mykola Kapitonenko says that we’ll most likely see a ‘frozen’ conflict.  “From a theoretical point of view, you could settle or freeze the conflict, meaning that no territories are returned to Ukrainian control, just the shootings would stop and people would stop dying.,” said Kapitonenko, adding that further progress is “unattainable until Russian forces are out.”

Another major unanswered question is not simply Russia’s motives, and how far they are willing to compromise – painful compromises could also be a cost for Ukraine. Yurash pointed out that there are red lines that Ukrainian president Zelenskyy refuses to cross, such as holding local elections in the occupied territories prior to regaining border control. And Ukrainian society has only hardened its position against some of Russia’s demands, such as changes to the Ukrainian constitution, says Zolkina, adding that during Zelenskyy’s presidency, “Ukrainian society has demonstrated...that the level of readiness to accept some compromises didn’t get lower – it became higher in some extent in some regions.”

And as a result, a resolution to the conflict – at least one palatable to Ukrainians, and not just Russia – will have to navigate these questions, and answer them, before the conflict is truly resolved.

/Interview by Andriy Kulykov

/Text by Romeo Kokriatski

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