The Russian and Ukrainian presidents, Vladimir Putin and Vladimir Zelensky, are scheduled to hold a bilateral meeting in the Elysee Palace on Monday after the Normandy Four talks (Germany, Russia, France and Ukraine), a source close to the Paris summit’s organizers told TASS.
"A meeting between Putin and Zelensky is expected to be held in the Elysee Palace after the talks in the Normandy format and a joint news conference of the four leaders," the source said.
According to the source, Putin is scheduled to hold bilateral meetings with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel before the Normandy Four talks, which are expected to take two and a half hours.
The Kremlin press service has declined to confirm the report. In his turn, a spokesman for the Elysee Palace told TASS that the French presidential administration did not have information on a meeting between Putin and Zelensky, saying that the two countries’ press services should be briefed on the matter.
Agenda for bilateral talks
This will be the first personal meeting for Putin and Zelensky, who assumed office this May. Earlier, the two leaders had four phone conversations - in July, August, September and November. The Russian leader is expected to discuss with his Ukrainian counterpart various issues, including challenging aspects of gas talks.
At his one-on-one meeting with the French leader, Putin may discuss the issue on the non-deployment of medium-and shorter-range missiles to Europe. Earlier, Macron responded to Putin’s message, expressing his readiness to hold dialogue on this issue.
Meanwhile, Putin’s meeting with Merkel will take place in the wake of Berlin’s move to expel two Russian diplomats in early December. The German authorities cited the lack of Moscow’s cooperation in a murder case of a Georgian national in the German capital this summer. According to Merkel, the diplomats’ expulsion was unlikely to affect the Paris meeting, which would focus on Ukraine and how to make progress in the Minsk process.
The Normandy Four negotiations for ironing out the Donbass crisis have been underway since June 2014. The leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany gathered in Normandy for the celebrations of the 70th anniversary of D-Day (the landing of allied troops on the beaches of Normandy in 1944) to discuss the settlement of the conflict in Donbass for the first time. Since then, a number of phone conversations and high-level meetings have taken place as well as contacts between the foreign ministers. The latest Normandy Four summit was held in Berlin on October 2016. A long break between the summits is explained by Kiev’s failure to implement the agreements reached at the previous meetings of the leaders.