Ukraine: Pro-western opposition sets ‘red lines’ ahead of ‘Normandy’ summit

File photo. Former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (C-R) welcomes people during their rally against signing 'Steinmeier formula' by Ukrainian delegation in Minsk, on the Independence Square in Kiev, Ukraine, 6 October 2019. [{Sergey Dolzhenko/EPA/EFE]

Three Ukrainian opposition factions have proposed their red lines, including the return of Crimea to Ukraine’s full control, ahead of a four-way Normandy-type summit to be held on in Paris on Monday (9 November).

The so-called ‘Normandy format’, first tested in France under its former President Francois Hollande, gathers the heads of state of Russia, Ukraine, France, and the Chancellor of Germany. The last such summit took place in Berlin, in October 2016. This is the first such summit in which the new President of Ukraine will participate.

The statement published on Tuesday (3 December) was signed by former President Petro Poroshenko of the “European Solidarity”, ex-Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko of the “Fatherland” party, and Sviatoslav Vakarchuk, a rock star-turned-MP on behalf of “Voice.”

Along with the return of Crimea, the opposition demands that no compromises are made that would result in a federalisation of Ukraine. They also want to make sure the country’s European and Euro-Atlantic integration is preserved, and that no elections are held before Russian troops withdraw and control is regained over the border and the occupied territories.

Zelenskiy offers curtain-raiser ahead of ‘Normandy summit’

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy met with representatives of foreign media ahead of the 9 December summit in Paris, which will return to the effort of finding a solution to the crisis in Eastern Ukraine after a long break.

These “red lines” largely coincide with those outlined by Foreign Affairs Minister Vadym Prystaiko during the NATO leaders’ meeting in London on Tuesday.

“For us, the red line are amendments of the Constitution. Also, red lines are that we will not allow influence on our foreign policy priorities; the [Donbas] border must be Ukrainian; elections cannot be held until there are armed forces and illegal military formations, etc.,” Prystaiko said, as reported Ukrainian media.

A likely point of friction between the opposition and President Volodymyr Zelensky’s government may be the issue of Ukrainian lawsuits against Russian gas giant Gazprom. “No termination of international lawsuits against Russia” is a demand made by the opposition in their statement.

Ukraine’s gas company Naftogaz has several ongoing legal claims against Gazprom worth billions of euros. It is widely expected that gas will be an issue to be discussed bilaterally between Zelenskiy and Putin in Paris in the sidelines of the ‘Normandy’ meeting.

The current deal for Russian gas supplies to Ukraine and transit to Europe expires after 31 December. EU-mediated talks for a new deal with Russia, held on 28 October, ended in deadlock.

Ukraine, Russia and the EU could meet for the next round of talks already on Thursday, but it has yet to be confirmed, Ukraine’s energy minister Oleksiy Orzhel said on Monday.

Putin, Zelenskiy discuss natural gas in phone talk

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskiy have discussed natural gas supplies to Ukraine and gas transit via the country further into Europe, the Kremlin said in a statement on Monday (25 November).

“For me, it is important that the gas issue is an issue in itself. No matter what the wishes of both sides are, it must not be connected in any way with Donbas. However, I do not rule out that gas transit will also be addressed in the Normandy Format,” President Zelensky told Der Spiegel.

The Ukrainian opposition factions that proposed their “red lines” hold a total of 71 out of 450 seats in country’s parliament, Verkhovna Rada.

However, the opposition is capable of mobilising many, each time it flags that Ukraine’s new leader is making concessions to Russia.

Thousands rally in Kyiv to protest the 'Steinmeier formula' for eastern Ukraine

Thousands of people gathered in Kyiv’s main square on Sunday (6 October) to protest against President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s deal with Moscow to grant autonomy to Ukraine’s pro-Russian rebel-held east as part of efforts to end a five-year conflict there.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic and Georgi Gotev]

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