Three opposition parties demand ‘no capitulation’ in Zelensky-Putin meeting
By Oleksiy Sorokin.
The leaders of three opposition parties in Ukraine’s parliament have signed a joint statement calling on President Volodymyr Zelensky not to make concessions they deem unacceptable during his upcoming meeting with his Russian counterpart in Paris.
In a Dec. 2 video blog, Zelensky described the meeting as a victory for Ukraine and a chance to find a diplomatic solution to Russia’s ongoing war against the country, which has taken the lives of nearly 14,000 people since 2014.
The two presidents will meet face-to-face in Paris on Dec. 9, along with the leaders of France and Germany, as part of a series of peace negotiations known as the Normandy Format.
“Some say that it’s impossible to have a dialogue with (Russian President Vladimir) Putin, but without a dialogue it’s like we’re on a treadmill – we are running forward, but not moving,” Zelensky said.
But not everyone agrees.
A day later, on Dec. 3, ex-President Petro Poroshenko, leader of the 27-member European Solidarity faction in parliament; ex-Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, leader of the 24-member Batkivshchyna faction and rock star-turned-politician Sviatoslav Vakarchuk, leader of the 20-member Voice faction, together signed a joint statement in which they drew red lines that Zelensky should not cross in Paris.
The signatories listed five key principles by which they say Zelensky must abide during the talks:
- No compromises concerning the unitary status of Ukraine.
- No compromises concerning the country’s pro-European and Euro-Atlantic path.
- Ukraine must not agree to any elections in the Russian occupied parts of eastern Ukraine before Russia withdraws its troops, disarms its militants and returns control of the Russian-Ukrainian border to Ukraine.
- No compromises concerning the return of Crimea, illegally annexed by Russia in 2014, to Ukraine.
- All international court hearings against Russia must be continued.
The signatories also demanded that Russia withdraw its troops, disarm militants and return control of the border to Ukrainian border guards.
The memorandum ends with Poroshenko, Tymoshenko and Vakarchuk urging other political parties and non-governmental organizations to sign on to the document.
Zelensky was expected to schedule the Normandy Four meeting between the leaders of the four nations as early as August before Russia added additional prerequisites to the talks.
Before the meeting, Ukraine was required to agree to the so-called Steinmeier Formula, a peace plan promising the occupied regions self-governance after they hold local elections under Ukrainian law. Additionally, the Ukrainian army and the Russian-led militants were to disengage forces from the front line near the towns of Zolote in Luhansk Oblast and Petrivske in Donetsk Oblast.
Ukraine successfully fulfilled all conditions laid out in the Steinmeier Formula, although the decision wasn’t universally embraced at home. After troop withdrawals last month, over 10,000 people took to the streets protesting what they saw as capitulation to Russia’s demands.
In his Dec. 2 video, Zelensky accused “long-forgotten” politicians of staging the protests and instigating people to take to the streets.