Ukraine Monitor

Date: 10 September 2019

Putin plays with Zelensky: Normandy trap

The exchange of prisoners opened a period of intensive negotiations and possible decisions which should lead to the settlement of the conflict in Donbas. The Kremlin played with Zelensky in the case of the exchange of prisoners and now it is dragging him into another trap. Similarly as Macron. Putin has put presidents of Ukraine and France in a situation in which they will be forced to make major concessions to make the summit happen. Otherwise, the meeting will be terminated which would thwart the ambitions and calculations both of Macron and Zelensky. One should expect that Zelensky will make further concessions and will blame his predecessor for this situation.


Putin wants to exploit Zelensky’s determination to the maximum to make the summit happen as soon as possible. Ukrainian president wants to achieve another PR success which will enhance his support of the electorate. The first was the exchange of prisoners – which is the realisation of his pre-election promise. Now, the meeting of the Normandy format after years – which also was promised. The political consequences of such events are not important at all. The most important is the fact that they lead to PR success. Putin uses Macron in the same way. Macron has already announced the meeting so he will have to make many concessions to achieve that. Angela Merkel acts most smartly. With her great experience and knowledge about the policy of the Kremlin and Putin, the Chancellor of Germany acts as a teacher in the company of students Macron and Zelensky. It is not a coincidence that Berlin remains quiet about the possible summit of the Normandy format while Kiev and Paris are making subsequent statements in this matter.

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Putin is skilfully dragging Zelensky into a new trap. Earlier, he was caught in a trap concerning the exchange of prisoners. The Kremlin manoeuvred him into a situation in which Zelensky had to realise the exchange even though it happened on unfavourable conditions for Kiev. The same may happen in the case of the Normandy format summit. An important element of the Russian scenario of the Summit Operation is a situation in which Macron – to remain his image as “the architect of peace in the East” – will be brutally pushing Zelensky to fulfil the Kremlin’s conditions. Kiev has already started preparations for the concessions – in the informational aspect as it may outrage Ukrainian citizens. After the meeting in Berlin, Prystaiko announced that if Ukraine wanted to end the war by the end of this year, it would have to “make some painful concessions”. He stated that this was a consequence of decisions made by the previous authorities since 2014. This concerns mainly the Minsk agreements which are unfavourable to Ukraine in many aspects. Poroshenko signed the agreements under the diplomatic pressure of the West and military pressure of Russia in Donbas. Then he was playing for time and the realisation of agreements was frozen which was accepted by Berlin and Paris. However, now, both Macron and Zelensky want immediate success, therefore, the President of Ukraine will blame his predecessor for concessions to Russia.

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