Participants from the Russian side included Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Deputy Foreign Minister Georgy Karasin, Presidential Aide Yury Ushakov, and Deputy Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office and Presidential Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov.
Following the Normandy format talks, the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany adopted a declaration in support of the Measures to Implement the Minsk Agreements adopted on February 12 by the Contact Group on the Ukrainian Settlement.
Vladimir Putin also made a statement for the press.
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President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good morning,
This was not the best night of my life, but the morning, I believe, is good. This is because, despite the difficult negotiations, we finally managed to agree on the key issues.
”Kiev authorities still refuse to have direct contacts with representatives of the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics. Even though they have not been recognised, we have to proceed from the realities of life and if everyone wishes to achieve an agreement on establishing long-term relations, direct contacts are essential.“
Incidentally, you might wonder why the negotiations took so long. In my opinion, this was because unfortunately the Kiev authorities still refuse to have direct contacts with representatives of the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics. Even though they have not been recognised, we have to proceed from the realities of life and if everyone wishes to achieve an agreement on establishing long-term relations, direct contacts are essential.
We operated under the existing conditions and, in my view, have managed to agree on many things. The first is that we agreed on a ceasefire to begin at midnight on February 15. The second item that I find extremely important is the withdrawal of heavy weapons from the current line of confrontation for Ukrainian troops and from the line established on September 19, 2014 in Minsk for the Donbass self-defence forces.
Then comes a set of matters dealing with a long-term political settlement. This includes several items, the first being a constitutional reform that should take into consideration the lawful interests of the people residing on the territory of Donbass.
This is followed by matters dealing with a solution to border issues upon agreement with the Donbass militia, humanitarian issues, and the implementation of the earlier adopted law on the special status of the Donetsk and Lugansk territories.
Finally, there is a set of economic and humanitarian items.
We proceed from the notion that all the parties will show restraint until the complete ceasefire. The problem here was that representatives of the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics claimed that in response to the aggressive actions of the Kiev authorities they not only held back the Kiev forces but also managed to mount an offensive and surrounded a group of 6,000 to 8,000 servicemen. They, of course, proceed from the idea that this group will lay down arms and stop its resistance.
We nevertheless call on both sides to show restraint and in order to avoid unnecessary excessive bloodshed and casualties they should do everything possible to ensure that the separation of forces, mainly the heavy equipment, is conducted without unnecessary bloodshed.
”We call on both sides to show restraint and in order to avoid unnecessary excessive bloodshed and casualties they should do everything possible to ensure that the separation of forces, mainly the heavy equipment, is conducted without unnecessary bloodshed.“
Representatives of the Ukrainian authorities believe their troops have not been surrounded and therefore think this process will go sufficiently smoothly. I had some initial doubts that I can share with you. If the troops really had been surrounded, then, logically, they will try to break free, while those who are on the outside will try to arrange for a corridor for their trapped servicemen.
Eventually, we agreed with President Poroshenko that we will instruct our experts – I am ready to do so – to establish what is actually going on there. In addition, I will repeat, we will try to develop a set of measures to verify the implementation of our decisions by both sides.
I would like to call on both conflicting parties once again to stop the bloodshed as soon as possible and proceed to a truly political process of a long-term settlement.
Thank you for your attention.
(Answering a question from a Russian journalist.)
One document has just been signed by the Minsk Contact Group, it is called Measures to Implement the Minsk Agreements.
The other document does not require signing: it is a statement by the President of France, the President of Ukraine, yours truly and the Federal Chancellor of Germany to the effect that we support the process.