Vladimir Putin and Petro Poroshenko had a face-to-face encounter on Tuesday in Minsk, when they discussed the steadily worsening Ukraine situation at the bargaining table. It wasn’t just the handshake that was tense, as discussions produced no result or hope of solution for the Ukrainian conflict. All that came out of the encounter was the suggestion of future discussions.
Initially, the Minsk gathering should have been a venue where the Eurasian Customs Union, the European Union and Ukraine could discuss their economic differences. However, one surprise was President Putin’s speech in which he explained that Ukraine will be giving up its previous trade conditions with the Customs Union (willingly or not so willingly) and will have to accept the fact that Moscow is now creating tariff barriers against duty-free EU produce that are expected to be flooding the Ukraine.
Mr. Putin explained that the Russian Federation could not simply accept the new situation and that it will have to reciprocate. According to him, the new conditions that Ukraine will have to accept are only being created to protect the Russian market.
The world’s attention was, however, focused on the bilateral meeting between the president of Ukraine and the president of Russia. All had hoped that Putin and Poroshenko could reach an acceptable compromise that could ensure the end of hostilities in eastern Ukraine. Instead, we could see extremely divergent paths. Putin explained that the only possibility of ending hostilities is a politically negotiated dialog between Kiev and the remainder of the regions in eastern Ukraine. He explained that Kiev would have to consider the southeastern regions’ interests and address them without military escalations.
Poroshenko on the other hand explained that as he sees it, the situation could simply end if the pro-Russian separatists would simply lay down their weapons and accept his proposal of safely leaving the conflict zone. The Ukrainian president added that Russian interference was the primordial cause of distress in eastern Ukraine and insisted that an essential condition for stabilizing the situation in Donbass is the creation of an effective control unit over the Russian-Ukrainian border.
Poroshenko also remembered to mention the constant supply of weapons that the pro-Russian separatists have been enjoying and urged the Russian government to end the deliveries.
In recent days, the eastern regions of Ukraine have experienced an increase in fighting. Rebels have flat out rejected Moscow’s proposal that Kiev grant the rebels substantial autonomy (or federalization). The Prime minister of the Donetsk People’s Republic, Alexander Zakharchenko informed journalists that the rebels would now only accept complete independence from Ukraine.