Zelensky said he was ready to meet his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Minsk for a resumption of talks, also calling on Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States and France. In a video posted on his Facebook account on July 8, the former comedian mentioned Crimea and Donbass among the issues to be addressed.
“And now I want to address Russian President Vladimir Putin […] Let’s go. Discussing. Who does Crimea belong to? And who is not present in the Donbass? I propose the following configuration for this conversation: you, US President Donald Trump, UK Prime Minister Theresa May, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron. The place ? I think that Alexander Grigorievich Lukashenko will gladly welcome us to Minsk,” he said, speaking directly to the Russian head of state.
The Ukrainian president also said exclude “no diplomatic format” for this meeting.
Russia was quick to react through Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov. At a press conference, Peskov said he was “not yet ready to respond” to the invitation, saying it was “a whole new format”. The diplomats’ main obstacle was the presence of the United States, initially absent from the Minsk negotiations and agreements, signed in February 2015.
“First, you have to understand whether such a meeting has a perspective. Secondly, you have to get an idea of this proposed new format. The fact is that the United States is not part of the Normandy Format [diplomatic configuration with four: Ukraine, Russia, Germany, France, used for the negotiations of the Minsk agreements],” he said.
“Moreover, what happens with the Minsk agreements signed by the parties of the Normandy Format, but not by representatives of the United States?”, he added. However, the spokesman said that the proposal [would] certainly be considered”.
This statement is the second in two days by the Ukrainian President. The day before, evoking the Nord Stream gas pipeline project 2, he had indicated that Donald Trump was, he said, “the only person who […] will resolve this question in favor of Ukraine”, calling on the US president to enter discussions on the future pipeline.
According to the Ukrainian head of state, Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron are influenced in their respective positions by the companies of their countries, which are involved in the gas project – Uniper, Wintershall and BASF for Germany, Engie for France.
Donald Trump, for his part, has threatened sanctions on European investors if they carried out this project which is supposed to go through the Baltic Sea to supply Germany and the rest of Europe with Russian gas.