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MOSCOW, August 25. /ITAR-TASS/. Talks between the presidents of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, which constitute a Customs Union, and Ukraine, involving representatives of the European Union, in Minsk in Tuesday will not immediately lead to termination of hostilities in Ukraine, but will allow the sides to identify their complaints and start seeking a compromise, Russian experts polled by ITAR-TASS said.
“The scope of what is possible at the Minsk talks is limited by some circumstances. First, Petro Poroshenko is not an independent political figure: his position depends on Washington’s intentions. Second, Moscow does not control militiamen in Ukraine’s southeast in full and can’t order them to stop resistance,” Bovt said.
“At the Minsk talks, Russia may put forward two or three demands to seek compromise on gas and trade issues. The first one is Ukraine’s status beyond any blocs. The second one is autonomy for its eastern regions with the right of independent foreign economic activity, that is cooperation with Russia,” the expert said.
“Third, the freezing of the ‘Crimean situation’. Preferably with the same wording as regarding the Southern Kuril Islands - ‘let future generations decide’,” Bovt said.
“Should compromise be reached on these three principled positions, it will be possible to talk on gas prices and conditions of its transit via Ukraine in line with new schemes. In the context of gas transportation to Europe, it will be possible to raise the issue of gradual cancellation of sanctions in line with a specific roadmap,” he said.
“Against the backdrop of a deep crisis in the relations of Russia, Ukraine and the West, it is difficult to expect a specific agreement to be signed at the Minsk talks. The most likely development will be another announcement that a step forward has been made to terminate the Ukrainian war,” the expert said.
The Kiev press cites similar theses for termination of hostilities in Ukraine: the Crimean issue should be put outside the talks agenda; Russia should stop its alleged financial and military support for different groups acting in eastern Ukraine; the Donetsk and Luhansk regions should be given a certain degree of autonomy.
Ukraine should also give up its plans to join NATO and the Kremlin should simultaneously stop its alleged attempts to slow down Kiev’s rapprochement with the European Union; Ukraine should sign a new long-term contract with Russian energy giant Gazprom.
“Russia can indeed make such concessions. Russia has four problem points and three of them have been reflected in that hypothetic plan. These are the Crimean issue, Ukraine’s non-bloc status and the country’s federalization,” said Pavel Salin, head of the political research center of the Financial University under the Russian government.
“It is also important to obtain an answer to Russia’s principled question: who will pay for restoration of Donbass [the Donetsk and Luhansk regions]. The situation there is catastrophic, the social infrastructure is nearly destroyed, and the 8 billion [hryvnias, or $600 million] that according to premier [Arseniy] Yatsenyuk will be required to restore the Donetsk Region alone is seen as a greatly understated sum,” Salin said.
“There is no confidence that Ukraine will agree to the terms as its leaders have their own ambitions, and the United States is behind them. But the factor of the upcoming winter and heating season could bring success at the talks. Some 40% of the heat generating capacities is in Donbass, which has nearly stopped all coal deliveries,” he said.
“Ukraine’s entire utilities system will be ruined without Russian gas and Ukrainian coal. So time is working for peaceful settlement of the crisis,” the expert said.
"The fact that the sides have realized the necessity of top-level talks is reassuring as they could have abandoned them like it had happened before. Minsk will not put forward overstated demands, and this causes a certain degree of optimism,” Sergey Oznobishchev, the head of the Strategic Assessments Institute, told ITAR-TASS.
“Anyway, there is no more talk of the ‘great Novorossiya’ project but only proposals to defend a certain status of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions,” Oznobishchev said.
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