Russia and Ukraine are going to talk about the situation after annexation The Crimea

Photo by Nikolay Vorobyev on Unsplash

Russia has returned to Ukraine three Ukrainian naval ships that were seized a year ago in the Kerch Strait. At the time, the three Ukrainian ships attempted to sail from the Black Sea to the Sea of Azov via the Kerch Strait. After the occupation of Crimea, Moscow called that strait Russian waters.

Russian tugs had towed the three Ukrainian ships out to sea from a port in Crimea over the weekend. The transfer took place in neutral waters of the Black Sea. The international community had repeatedly called for the ships to be released. The 24 crew members of the ships had already been released in early September. This happened in the context of a prisoner exchange between Kiev and Moscow.

The return of the ships precedes a possible 'first' summit between Russia and Ukraine. Russia has confirmed that a summit on the conflict in eastern Ukraine will be held in Paris on December 9. That meeting will be the first meeting between Presidents Vladimir Putin and Volodymyr Zelensky. France and Germany mediate.

Russian-backed rebels are operating in eastern Ukraine, as well as Russian soldiers, according to unconfirmed reports. The rebels have declared an autonomous republic that is recognized by no one except Moscow. That is also the area where the Malaysian MH17 was shot from the sky.

The annexation of Crimea and the Russian influence in the east of Ukraine are seen by the European and Atlantic NATO countries as an extension of the Russian sphere of influence to the south and west, after Georgia (Abkhazia and Ossetia has also been built in recent decades). ) and Modalvia (Transnistria) and Poland and Lithuania (Kalinningrad) became Russian westward extensions.

Recently there has been a cautious rapprochement between Russia and Ukraine. Last week, Ukrainian troops and Russian-backed separatists withdrew from two villages in eastern Ukraine. Although relations between the countries have improved since the election of the new Ukrainian president Zelensky, there is still no agreement.

Anyway, for a possible Russian-Ukrainian agreement on that eastern rebel area, Ukraine will have to decide on some form of self-government for the separatists. There is a lot of resistance to this in Ukraine. And there must be local elections.

The conflict between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine has killed nearly 13,000 people since 2014. Minsk's 2015 peace accords have always been a dead letter, but progress has been noted since Zelenski's election in April this year. There was the exchange of prisoners, and troops of the warring factions also withdrew from certain sectors along the front.

The Russian-backed rebel war in the east, the Russian occupation and annexation of the Crimea peninsula, and the shooting down of MH17 have also led to diplomatic tensions between Russia and the countries of the European Union. Not only the EU countries but also the international community have taken economic sanctions and financial punishment against Moscow.

Diplomatic consultations have taken place behind the scenes at all levels, but so far without any result. For example, several European leaders argue that Europe will have to seek political agreement with Russia in some way, and that the economic sanctions cannot be 'maintained forever'.

A possible agreement between Moscow and Kiev ("to return to normalizing relations") could pave the way for other European countries to restore contacts with Moscow to normal proportions.