MINSK, August 26, /ITAR-TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Pyotr Poroshenko are meeting tete-a-tete, Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Tuesday.
“A bilateral meeting is underway,” Peskov said.
The talks between Putin and Poroshenko, which are taking place in this format for the first time, come after consultations in Minsk earlier Tuesday between the leaders of the Customs Union (Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan) on the one hand and the Ukrainian president on the other with participation of European Union representatives.
The Minsk consultations were dedicated to interaction of the Customs Union with Kiev in conditions when an association agreement was signed between Ukraine and the EU.
Before, Putin and Poroshenko only had a brief conversation that lasted less than 10 minutes in Normandy in June 2014 in the presence of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande. The two leaders have also had phone talks.
Peskov told Itar-Tass that “there are very many topics for discussion.”
“These include the intra-Ukrainian crisis, the horrible humanitarian disaster in the country’s east and the necessity to cease fire,” he explained. Besides, the two presidents may discuss “bilateral relations between the Russian Federation and Ukraine in light of Kiev’s signing of the association agreement with the EU.”
At the Customs Union - Ukraine meeting earlier Tuesday, Putin said that more intensive cooperation between the Union on the one hand and Ukraine on the other would be useful but added that it is hardly possible due to Kiev’s association deal with the EU.
He also said at the meeting that the companies of Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine have close connections in all basic spheres and have organized unique production chains.
The Customs Union member states are Ukraine’s key foreign trade partners with trade reaching $50 billion in 2013 and $22.7 billion in the first six months of 2014. The Customs Union’s market accounts for 30% of Ukraine’s exports. The volume of Russian capital in Ukraine’s banking system has reached some 32%
Ukraine’s previous president, Viktor Yanukovich, suspended the signing of the association agreement with the EU to study the deal more thoroughly in November 2013. The move triggered mass riots that eventually led to a coup in February 2014.
The Crimean Peninsula did not accept the new authorities in Kiev. It seceded from Ukraine and reunified with Russia in mid-March 2014 after a referendum. Crimea’s example apparently inspired residents of Ukraine’s southeast who did not recognize the coup-imposed authorities either, formed militias and started fighting for their rights.
Kiev’s military operation designed to regain control over the breakaway Donetsk and Lugansk regions, which on May 11 proclaimed their independence at local referendums and now call themselves the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s republics, involves armored vehicles, heavy artillery and attack aviation and has claimed hundreds of civilian lives and caused hundreds of thousands of people to flee Ukraine’s southeast.
The association agreement with the EU was eventually signed on June 27 under the new president, Western-leaning billionaire businessman and politician Poroshenko, who won the May 25 early presidential election in Ukraine set by the provisional Kiev authorities.
Poroshenko had funded anti-government protests in Ukraine that led to February's coup.