Th, 1.06.2023
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Editorial: the Minsk gambit

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Background of the summit everything but conducive to peaceful talks on the economy.

If earlier notices are to be believed, Minsk – the capital of Belarus – ought to host a three party summit today involving high representatives of Ukraine, the EU, and the Russia-led customs union. Among others, these would include the Russian president Mr Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Mr Poroshenko.

If not cancelled at 11th hour, that would be the first time the leaders of the two large European countries, Ukraine and Russia, happen to be in the same room – excluding the brief instance in France on the D-Day event this summer where they talked for about a minute, in a lobby, with the German Chancellor Angela Merkel present. 

According to the Kremlin press secretary Dmitri Peskov yesterday, the Putin-Poroshenko meeting is not excluded during this summit. Even so, by that time there had been no such statement from the President of Ukraine – not even regarding him travelling to Minsk at all.

Considering yesterday’s troublesome news of dozens Russian armoured vehicles crossing a Southern section of Ukrainian border and doing battle with Ukrainian border-guards and interior ministry units near Novoazovsk-Mariupol region, the Minsk summit backdrop is anything but conducive to peaceful talks on the economy. As reported by Ukrainian media, the new invaders were Russian paratroopers who also managed to capture some Ukrainian fighters yesterday.

The Minsk summit has been in preparations for quite a while now. The original intent was purely economical, as related to Ukraine signing its association treaty with the EU. From the EU, its High Representative on Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton has signed up, accompanied by trade commissioner Karel De Gucht (from Belgium), and the German Günther Oettinger – energy commissioner.

In today’s Postimees, Finnish journalist Heikki Hakala writes that the preparations of the very meeting in Minsk have been the main issue at Finnish President Sauli Niinistö’s recent meetings with Mr Putin in Sochi and with Mr Poroshenko in Kiev. Thus, a bunch of European states have invested political capital to take Mr Putin and Mr Poroshenko into the same space.

If the summit does indeed happen with both presidents present, it still smacks of not much enthusiasm regarding a solution in the border-war between Russia and Ukraine. It’s worth mentioning that on Sunday, August the 23rd – Ukraine’s Day of Independence – several heads of state sent Kiev their congratulations. A person notably not to congratulate was Vladimir Putin who, a year before, hesitated not to greet then President Mr Yanukovych.

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