There was Jacques Chirac who, in 1998, assured the Ukrainians : “Your horizon is naturally Europe”. There had been, in a gust of wind, François Hollande: on his way to Moscow, the French president had contented himself, in February 2015, with a quick stop at Kiev airport. Emmanuel Macron will therefore be the third French president to visit Ukraine on February 8.
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Long awaited in the country – President Volodymyr Zelensky had in April 2020 invited Emmanuel Macron to go to Kiev “once the pandemic is over” –, the visit takes place in the very particular context, that of a veritable diplomatic ballet provoked by the continuous deployment of Russian troops on the Ukrainian border and the fear of a military offensive from Moscow. Preceded in Kiev by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on February 4, Emmanuel Macron will be followed on February 15 by German Prime Minister Olaf Scholz.
” Return on investment “
But behind the enthusiastic declarations, Kiev approaches the visit of the French president with circumspection. “There are no great expectations”, thus judges the political scientist Volodymyr Fessenko. The Ukrainian power even observes with a certain nervousness the desire of the Elysée to relaunch the Minsk agreements which, seven years ago, failed to end the conflict between Ukraine and the pro-Russian separatists supported by Moscow. A day before the arrival of the French President, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba posted on social media a list of “red lines” of Kiev in the negotiations, of which “any concession on sovereignty or territorial integrity”.
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“Overall, this visit is a good thing”explains Oleksandr Daniliouk to The cross. Today at the head of the think tank “Center for Development and National Resilience”, this former Minister of Finance and Secretary of the Security Council of Ukraine had, in 2019, organized in Paris the first meeting between Emmanuel Macron and a Volodymyr Zelensky still a mere presidential candidate.
“It’s a good thing because Vladimir Putin cannot attack when there are high level visits, then because it shows that Ukraine is supported”, he explains, before adding: “But it can also potentially be negative, because all the leaders who get involved in this crisis are putting their political capital at stake, and they want a return on their investment. » With, again, the widespread fear that Ukraine will be pushed into concessions seen by Kiev as unacceptable.
“No compromise on Ukraine’s sovereignty”
Never implemented since 2015, the Minsk agreements provide in particular for the inclusion in the Ukrainian Constitution of a special status for the region currently controlled by the separatists which, Kiev fears, could give Moscow a right of veto on its foreign policy. . “Even if Zelensky and Yermak [principal conseiller de Volodymyr Zelensky en politique étrangère, NDLR] agreed to put the special status of Donbass in the Constitution, the Parliament would never vote for it”, explains Volodymyr Fessenko. In August 2015, the passing of a law on this special status sparked riots outside Parliament and the death of a police officer killed in a grenade explosion. The measure remains today politically very sensitive.
“The security and sovereignty of Ukraine or any other European state cannot be compromised,” tried to reassure Emmanuel Macron in an interview with Sunday newspaper. “I don’t think Volodymyr Zelensky can get much from Emmanuel Macron,” loose for his part Oleksandr Daniliouk, today very critical of the Ukrainian president. But if the question of concrete results remains unresolved, the very reality of the visit is seen as a success by Ukrainian diplomacy which fears, more than anything, to be left out of the negotiations.