Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian colleague Volodymyr Zelensky have closed a truce. The violence in Eastern Ukraine must end by the end of the year. They agreed on this during a summit meeting in France.
French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel also attended the summit.
Both countries have agreed to take steps to allow the ceasefire in the eastern region of Ukraine, the Donets basin, to start as soon as possible. There will also be a prisoner exchange and agreements have been made on the supply of Russian gas.
The two presidents have not agreed on the status of the area. There are also divergent views on border control between the region and Russia and on organizing local elections. It has been agreed to meet again in France in four months.
Ukraine wants full control, Russia wants separate status
Zelensky said after the summit that it was good that the dialogue with Russia had started again, but that many questions remained. The Ukrainian president says that he insists that his country must have full control over the eastern part and that he will not compromise or transfer any territory.
Putin also found the conversations useful. He does, however, want changes to the Ukrainian constitution so that the Donets region gets a special status within Ukraine.
Macron says that Russia and Ukraine still have major disputes in mind about elections in Eastern Ukraine. He hopes that both parties will come to that in the coming four months. Merkel also acknowledges that much work still needs to be done for a long-term peace in the region, but says that there is movement in the process.
Conflict has already cost more than 13,000 human lives
The conflict in eastern Ukraine between the army and pro-Russian militias has so far claimed the lives of more than 13,000 people. In 2014, fierce protests against the then president Viktor Yanukovych, who used a pro-Russian policy, degenerated into a violent conflict between pro-Russian separatists on the one hand and the army and pro-Western activists on the other.
The Russian army entered the Crimea in February that year and annexed the peninsula. After a hastily called referendum, pro-Russian separatists proclaimed the independence of the Eastern Ukrainian regions of Lugansk and Donetsk.
However, Ukraine refuses to acknowledge the Russian annexation and the independence of the pro-Russian areas and also receives support from the West. But also the pro-Russian separatists do not give up. A civil war has been raging in the area for five years now, with casualties on a weekly basis.
Ukraine, France, Germany and Russia are the four parties that together form the Normandy consultations. Since the beginning of the conflict, the leaders of these countries have met occasionally to discuss the restoration of stability in Ukraine. It was the first time that Zelensky spoke. He seems to be more willing to make concessions and consultations than his predecessor Petro Poroshenko.