Paris summit: breakthrough on eastern Ukraine?

Ukrainian President Zelensky and his Russian counterpart Putin will meet for the first time in Paris today. Measures aimed at resolving the eastern Ukraine conflict are to be worked out together with Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel. Europe's media discuss whether and how there can be a breakthrough to the talks that have stalled until now.

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Diena (LV) /

No lever that could solve the stalemate

The meeting can only end in disappointment for Ukraine, Diena is sure:

“The prospect of a ceasefire won't advance the political process. The positions of Ukraine, Russia and the pro-Russian separatists are too radically different. That, in turn, means that the conflict will remain frozen and Donbass will be driven further in the direction of Russia. There is no real lever, either in Ukraine or in the leading countries of the EU, which could influence Russia and change the situation. And united Europe has no particular desire to use such a lever even if it did exist.”

Postimees (EE) /

Back to a bipolar world

Postimees also warns that things will go back to the way they were at Kiev's expense:

“There is the growing danger that France and Germany will seek a deal regardless of what Ukraine wants. ... Notwithstanding the wars in Georgia and Ukraine, leading voices believe that an agreement on peace in Europe must be reached with Russia so that a new security architecture can be built. Ukraine cannot be allowed to get in the way of this sacred project. ... Clear conflict resolution is in everyone's interests, including Estonia's. But the price must not be that once again we give in to all of Russia's demands. Giving our blessing to Russia's influence over Ukraine would be tantamount to breathing new life into the geopolitical order whose end we celebrated on the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.”

Magyar Hang (HU) /

In the antechamber of peace

The events of the last three months give cause for cautious optimism, Magyar Hang concludes:

“There is a symbolic significance to the fact that the participants are now sitting down at one table after three years. If the blockade of the Minsk Agreement can be lifted, this will be a considerable achievement. Ukraine has not withdrawn from the agreement, but for the time being it is not implementing the points set out in it, which also prevents Moscow and the separatists from playing their part. If the positions converge, a solution to the eastern Ukraine conflict in the narrower sense could begin: the separation of troops, a ceasefire and demilitarisation. The debate in Ukraine about the Steinmeier formula shows what a great step forward that would be: even the tiniest compromise is perceived by the small but loud opposition as treason against their homeland.”

Kommersant (RU) /

Acid test for Minsk agreements

Kiev is putting Europeans in a complicated position, according to Kommersant:

“Zelensky and his entourage don't like the Minsk agreements and want to get rid of them. ... But once we go back on the Protocol the whole principle behind the sanction policy collapses. How can you punish someone on the basis of something that no longer exists? Europe would then be in an awkward situation, with the Minsk agreements being rejected by one side - Kiev - but the invoice for their non-fulfilment being presented to the other side - Moscow. ... So the Paris summit must focus on answering the following questions: do the Minsk agreements still exist, who must implement them, and in what order?”

Novoye Vremya (UA) /

Three red lines for Zelensky

There are three red lines Zelensky must avoid crossing in Paris, writes Sergey Gaidai, the director of a strategy agency, in Novoye Vremya:

“Firstly, he must not condone any sort of special status for the occupied territories. ... Secondly, he must not agree to elections in these areas. Look at Germany: elections were only held there only after a long process of de-Nazification. Elections held according to Ukrainian law will only be possible in occupied Donbass after all those who participated in the occupation have been arrested and put on trial. ... And thirdly, those who took part in killings, the occupation or cooperation with the occupiers must not be amnestied.”

Radio Kommersant FM (RU) /

There can be no peace without a gas deal

Radio Kommersant FM fears that the threat of a new gas war between Russia and Ukraine will overshadow the efforts to secure peace:

“Of course the talks will deal with Donbass and the peace process - but as cynical as it sounds, gas is more important. ... One summit alone is not enough to unravel a knot so full of contradictions. ... To prevent Ukraine and Europe from freezing up, a compromise must be found that is agreeable to all parties, but there is the risk that in the spring the gas war will start all over again. There is a chance that Nord Stream 2 will be finished by then, however. That's why Moscow is delaying things. Because with the gas trump in its hand, it will have an easier time talking about Donbass.”

slovoidilo.ua (UA) /

Kiev increasingly isolated

The wind has changed for Kiev, political scientist Oleksandr Leonov notes in slovoidilo.ua:

“Firstly, whereas in the past things were done according to the Normandy format, that is the principle of 'three against one' - meaning Ukraine, France and Germany against the Russian Federation - now it's France, Germany and the Russian Federation against Ukraine. Secondly, even though they were still being fired on, the Ukrainian troops have withdrawn from the front so that the Normandy meeting can take place. The OSCE, however, has not documented the fighters' retreat but the construction of new fortifications. But in fact Ukraine has withdrawn and begun taking [the fortifications] down. So the statement that the Ukrainian forces have returned to their initial positions is false.”

Efimerida ton Syntakton (GR) /

EU could finally emancipate itself from the US

Efimerida ton Syntakton has high expectations for the Paris summit - and the EU:

“A compromise on eastern Ukraine would be a sign of a policy of détente between Moscow and the EU. For the first time in six years. With a reduction of the tensions and suspicion vis-à-vis Russia that date back to the Cold War, the potential for the EU to emancipate itself from the US will increase in favour of a common European defence structure.”