A few days ago, a conference call was held between the countries of the “Normandy Format,” a contact group formed by the leaders of four countries (Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany) to meet the objectives set out in the Minsk Accords to resolve the ongoing civil war in Donbass since 2014.
At the end of the call, while the Kremlin just said that the next meeting would take place in the second half of August, Macron and Merkel made a joint statement requesting “the ceasefire agreed on June 21 [which was never actually respected by the parties] be immediately respected.” The two leaders also argued that “Minsk Agreements must come into force at all levels” as quickly as possible by setting a deadline for the first time — the end of 2017.
Moscow feels these timelines are completely unrealistic. However, in the Kremlin corridors, according to Ria Novosti, it is believed that negotiations must necessarily take some steps forward if one wants to disarm the “Little Russia” grenade, the new state proclaimed by the “Republic of Donetsk” last week. On this conference call, Putin said for the first time that “Little Russia was an initiative he was not aware of” and he “does not recognize,” thus officially taking distance from Alexander Zakharchenko, the leader of the self-proclaimed “Popular Republic of Lugansk.”