MINSK, February 10. /TASS/. The Contact Group for settling the armed civil conflict in eastern Ukraine is expected to have a yet another meeting in Minsk on Tuesday. Reports on a possibility of holding it came on after Sunday’s telephone conference of the leaders of Russia, Germany, France, and Ukraine in the so-called "Normandy format".
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s press service said on Sunday the interlocutors had reached progress in discussing a set of measures to implement the September 2014 Minsk accords. Also, they agreed to hold expert consultations in Berlin at the level of representatives of Foreign Ministries on Monday, February 9, and a meeting of the Contact Group, due to be attended by the signatories to the Minsk accords, on Tuesday.
The press service of the French President, Francois Hollande, also mentioned the possibility of a meeting of the Contact Group. It said the group would hold a meeting in Minsk "before Wednesday".
Authorities of the self-proclaimed unrecognized Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) reacted to the information almost at once. A source at the LPR government told TASS the republic’s plenipotentiary representative at the talks, Vladislav Deinego, would take part in the meeting and the LPR Prime Minister, Igor Plotnitsky said on Monday Deinego had already left for Minsk to take part in preparations for the meeting.
Plotnitsky told a news conference in Luhansk about the issues that would be discussed in Minsk. He said the sides would look at an expansive list of problems crucial for the LPR and its twin, the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR).
One of the first such issues is the lifting of the economic blockade of Donbas by Kiev.
"Then there is the payment of pensions to our retired residents," Plotnitsky said. "Number three is the passage of produce (through Ukrainian checkpoints - TASS)."
"These are the basic things but this chain brings up a whole list of further issues," he said. "The disengagement for armed units won’t be on the agenda of this meeting. But a whole set of problems will be — the problems that either will be resolved or won’t be resolved."
"We’ll benefit from a tough resolution of problems because we have the right at this moment to make demands and to seek solutions and we’ll do it," Plotnitsky said.
He indicated along with it that he did not expect easy solutions. "I can tell you in advance these talks won’t be easy. In no way. But since we agree to this talks a yet another time, our stance will be tough and well-grounded," Plotnitsky said.
"If others can offer some of a better quality and more grounded, we’ll naturally agree to this," he said.
The problem of powers of Kiev’s authorized representative, former President Leonid Kuchma, remains the stumbling block at the Minsk negotiations. Whether or not the LPR Prime Minister, Igor Plotnitsky, and the DPR Prime Minister, Alexander Zakharchenko, come to Minsk or not is strictly contingent on the appointment of a plenipotentiary representative to the talks by Kiev.
A text of the decree wherein Petro Poroshenko was empowering Kuchma to represent Kiev in the Contact Group appeared on the Ukrainian Presidential Administration’s website on February 2 but the DPR and LPR officials still have doubts about the actual scope of his powers.
Vladislav Deinego said, for instance, Kuchma had been trusted with representing Kiev at the talks but he did not have the powers to take decisions in his country’s name or to guarantee their implementation.
The presidential decree said Kuchma would carry out all the activities envisioned by the document on the pro-bono basis.
Nonetheless, Oleksiy Makeyev, the chief of the department for politics and communications at the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said it was exactly Kuchma who would represent Ukraine in Minsk.
At the time of reporting, it was not known whether the former Ukrainian president was prepared to go to Minsk.
The previous meeting of the Contact Group took place on January 31 and ended practically without any results. Vladislav Deinego and Denis Pushilin said upon its end that Kiev had been putting forward ultimatums to the East-Ukrainian self-defence forces instead of holding genuine talks.