From our special correspondent
Change of scenery, Tuesday, February 8, at the Maryinsky Palace, the residence of the Ukrainian president in Kiev. More relaxed than the day before in the Kremlin, Emmanuel Macron insisted before Volodymyr Zelensky on the implementation of the Minsk agreements, presented as “the best protection of the territorial integrity of Ukraine”. The French president and his Ukrainian counterpart believe it is possible to advance the negotiation within the framework of the so-called “Normandy” format, associating Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine. For his part, Volodymyr Zelensky says he expects a summit of the heads of state of the four countries “very soon», relating, firstly, to the application of humanitarian and security measures adopted in 2019: respect for the ceasefire in the Donbass, opening of crossing points and exchange of prisoners. Emmanuel Macron also paid a strong tribute to the ” cold blood “ of its counterpart in the crisis.
If France denies any intention of wanting to decide anything over the head of Ukraine, whose sovereignty will have to be guaranteed, behind the scenes, Paris is putting pressure on Kiev to “the strict and total implementation” agreements signed in February 2015. The Elysée considers that Ukraine must thus move towards the attribution of a special status to the separatist territories and a modification of the Constitution. To which Kiev responds that, under the terms of the Minsk agreements, this constitutional amendment only occurs after the withdrawal of armed groups from Donbass. “Too much pressure on Ukraine risks weakening Zelenskyand to prevent him from keeping these commitments., emphasizes Marie Dumoulin, researcher at the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR). In the eyes of Kiev, the implementation of these agreements risks ratifying a form of sanctuary for the separatists controlled by Moscow, while offering limited security guarantees.
Another potential source of friction is the question of Ukraine’s status and its relationship to NATO. Emmanuel Macron maintains a certain ambiguity about NATO’s refusal to question its policy of “open door”. The French President highlights “the need not to limit the rights of certain Europeans who are not part of the current disagreements”citing Finland and Sweden, two countries which leave open the possibility of membership.
Ukraine would belong to another category. Before his meeting with Vladimir Putin, the president had agreed in front of some journalists that the “finlandization” of Ukraine, that is to say the granting of a status of neutrality, was part of “models that are on the table”. In his press conference with the Ukrainian president, he denied having made such remarks and mentioned, without further details, “practical practical solutions”. Not sure that this hypothesis, synonymous with constrained neutrality and limited sovereignty, corresponds to the political reality of Ukraine today, firmly oriented towards the European Union and the Atlantic Alliance. “If President Zelensky accepted it, it would be in contradiction with his Constitution, in which the aspiration for Euro-Atlantic integration was writtenadds Marie Dumoulin. It would, moreover, be contrary to the principle of the free choice for each State of its geopolitical orientation. »
At the end of his high-risk trip to Moscow, the president is pleased to have fulfilled his objective: “Block the game to prevent an escalation and open up new perspectives. » «Now these proposals, he addswe are going to work on them with the Ukraine, the Europeans, with the Americans, and that will take time.»