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No breakthrough after Ukraine-Russia talks in Berlin

On Thursday after a nearly nine-hour round of the Normandy format talks in Berlin attended by Russian and Ukrainian officials failed to produce a breakthrough. The participants found the negotiations unpromising but agreed to continue meetings.

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Ukrainian point of view

Representatives of France and Germany are also participating in the negotiations. The head of the Ukrainian presidential administration Andriy Yermak noted that he hoped for a breakthrough on the exchange of prisoners and the opening of checkpoints in eastern Ukraine, but at this stage, there was no agreement on these issues.

Mr Yermak said that all parties involved in the talks have confirmed their interest in continuing the negotiations. There will certainly be a meeting of political advisers from Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France. However, the parties involved did not agree on where such a meeting would take place. The head of the Ukrainian presidential administration favoured moving further talks to Turkey, whose involvement could help resolve the conflict, but stressed that all parties would have to agree.

Russia’s take

A pessimistic assessment of the Berlin talks was also given by the head of the Russian delegation, the Deputy Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office, Dmitry Kozak. He stressed that “none of the discussed issues managed to be placed in such a way that they could become the basis for a future agreement”.

In his opinion, the Ukrainian side has taken an uncompromising position on the plan to settle the situation in Donbas after the end of the “hot” phase of the conflict. The Russian argued that representatives of France and Germany ‘declared their understanding for the necessity of resolving the conflict on political grounds”, but the Ukrainian delegation excluded in advance the possibility of equal participation in the talks of “representatives of individual administrative units from Donbas”.

“This is the key controversy on which Ukraine has ruled out the possibility of any concessions,” he added.

The Normandy talks format

Initiated by Germany and France after the 2014 Russian annexation of Crimea, the Normandy format was supposed to prevent a major war between Russia and Ukraine and lead to the implementation of the Minsk agreements. However, the process has stalled since the four countries’ leaders met in Paris in December 2019.

At the end of January 2022, the first round of talks took place involving representatives of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany, but failed to make any progress. Talks in this particular format continued on Thursday in Berlin, treating them as negotiations of last resort.

The talks come as Russia’s military involvement in the region is growing, with more than 100,000 Russian troops stationed on Ukraine’s eastern borders and unprecedented military, political and economic pressure on Kiev.

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