The Russian press is claiming that President Vladimir Putin will be holding a meeting with leaders on the sidelines of the G20 summit in China next month to discuss Ukraine after all. Ukraine’s leadership, however, does not appear to be included in the plans.
Reuters relays the crux of their conversation:
Russian’s Vladimir Putin held a phone call with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande on Tuesday, the Kremlin said. Putin, it said, drew attention to “provocations” by Ukraine in Crimea. Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 after protesters overthrew Kiev’s pro-Moscow president.
The Kremlin also said concern was expressed about instability along the line of confrontation in east Ukraine.
A German government spokesman said the three leaders shared concern in their phone call about ceasefire breaches in Ukraine’s Donbass region and that Merkel and Hollande had urged Putin to do what he could to calm the situation.
Putin, Merkel and Hollande also discussed the implementation of the Minsk agreements. “There was agreement that progress was urgently needed and that in particular a stabilization of the ceasefire had to be achieved,” said the German spokesman.
It’s easy to read too much into these dry diplomatic dispatches. European leaders have, after all, claimed that there will be no alternative to the Minsk Accords, and they seem to interpret that agreement to implicitly hold Russia responsible for bringing its separatist pawns in line. That said, the fact that Ukraine will not be present at whatever discussion is set to happen at the G20 summit is an ominous development. In Putin’s truculent speech, delivered two weeks ago, shortly after Russia had alleged it had caught Ukrainian saboteurs in Crimea, he ostentatiously canceled the upcoming Normandy Format talks at the summit, and seemed to be demanding a renegotiation of Minsk without Ukraine at the table.
Now maybe the Europeans won’t budge on Minsk. And indeed, this wouldn’t be the first time that Merkel and Hollande have discussed Ukraine with Putin without a Ukrainian in the room. But after Putin’s tantrum fit two weeks ago, the optics here are not the greatest. Hopefully the Europeans know that appeasing Putin here is probably not the best way forward.