President of Russia Vladimir Putin, President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and French President Emmanuel Macron are answering questions from the press in Paris on 9 December, following talks at the Normandy Four summit.The so-called Normandy format summit comes more than five years after the leaders of the four nations first met in France in 2014 in a bid to launch the peace process in Ukraine.
'A Big Progress Has Really Been Achieved Today' - Macron
French President Emmanuel Macron said that a lot had been achieved during the Normandy Four meeting in Paris. Macron called the Ukrainian conflict an "open wound" in Europe, saying that stability depends on resolving it, while also praising the recent exchange of the prisoners in Ukraine. The French president said that the next Normandy Four meeting would take place within four months.
"A big progress has really been achieved today. There was the first meeting of [Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin and [Ukrainian] President [Volodymyr] Zelenskyy. And I would like to thank [Zelenskyy] for this real determination and courage that he showed in settling the conflict in his country," Macron said at a press conference after the Normandy Four summit in Paris.
Merkel: 'It Is Very Important to Ensure Immediate Ceasefire'
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that the implementation of Steinmeier formula was discussed during the meeting and that the leaders had agreed to adhere to it. Merkel also said that all points of the Minsk agreements on Ukraine must be implemented. The German chancellor added that the Normandy Leaders had agreed on the political steps necessary for holding local elections in Ukraine's southeast.
"It is very important to ensure an immediate ceasefire, maintain the monitoring of the ceasefire during 24, not 12 hours, as well as to implement the political points of the protocol," Merkel said on Monday.
Zelensky: 'We Will Not Allow Any Influence on Political Governance of Ukraine'
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that local elections are possible only according to Ukrainian law and the "Copenhagen criteria."
"I insist that the elections in the disputed territories be held in accordance with Ukrainian law and in compliance with OSCE standards and Copenhagen criteria," Zelenskyy said.
The president of Ukraine also said he brought up the issue about restoring Kiev's full control over its border.
"I insisted on the need for the Ukrainian side to restore full control over its border," Zelenskyy said on Monday. "I am convinced that we will revisit this issue at the next Normandy format meeting, which will be held, as you have already heard, in four months."
He also expressed uncertainty as to how to enforce a full ceasefire in southeastern Ukraine.
Zelensky said that he will not agree to the country’s federalization.
"We will not allow changes in the Constitution of Ukraine regarding federalization," Zelenskyy said on Monday following the Normandy summit in Paris.
He added, "We will not allow any influence on the political governance of Ukraine."
The OSCE monitoring mission in Ukraine must work around the clock to ensure enforcement of the ceasefire and as such the organization’s role must be expanded, Ukrainian President Zelenskyy said.
"We also maintain that the OSCE’s mandate be expanded in order to monitor the ceasefire around the clock," Zelenskyy said.
Ukrainian President said that neither he himself, as president, nor Kiev, were holding direct talks with the self-proclaimed people’s republics of Donetsk and Lugansk in the southeast of Ukraine.
"Ukraine, I myself, as president, am not holding direct talks with representatives of the unlawful governments in the temporarily occupied territory," Zelenskyy said at a press briefing after the joint Normandy Four press conference held at the conclusion of the Monday summit in Paris.
He added that he hopes that 72 Ukrainians return home this year as a result of the prisoner exchanges agreed upon during the Normandy talks in Paris.
Zelinsky also said that there are no preconditions for holding the next Normandy Four summit on Donbass settlement.
Ukrainian President also said that a new dialogue format with Moscow must be found in order for lasting peace to be achieved in the troubled southeastern regions. He added that he "felt" some "concessions" during one-on-one talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, that were held after the Normandy Four summit on Monday.
Zelensky also announced that Ukraine’s law on the special status of Donbass will be extended by one year.
'Is There a Thaw of Some Kind? I Think Yes, There Is' - Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin said that there is a "thaw" in the resolution of the conflict in southeastern Ukraine and that the agreements reached prove that the resolution is moving in the right direction.
"Is there a thaw of some kind? I think yes, there is. First of all there has been an exchange of held persons, that’s already been done. We have achieved a disengagement of forces at three locations, that’s done. Now we have met in the Normandy format and discussed a very important spectrum of issues and have reached progress on many of them. This has been achieved and all this gives us grounds to assume that the process is developing in the right direction," Putin said.
The Russian president added that Moscow will do everything to end the conflict in southeastern Ukraine (Donbass), but direct dialogue must be held between the conflicting sides.
"Not a single conflict in the world has ever ended without direct dialogue between the conflicting sides," Putin stressed, saying that the conflicting sides in Ukraine need to "agree between each other, so that there is direct dialogue."
Putin said he couldn’t argue with what is straightforwardly laid out in the Minsk agreements, adding that the Minsk deal cannot be rewritten.
WADA’s Decision on Russia Must Be Analyzed, Russia Has Reasons to Sue
Russian President also said at the press conference that the Monday decision of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) with regard to Russia violates the Olympic charter and Russia has every reason to go to court.
"About WADA’s decision and doping. Will Russia challenge this decision? First of all, we need to analyze this decision," Putin told journalists.
"What lies on the surface and what I see right away is that there are no complaints against the Russian Olympic National Committee, and if there are no complaints against it, then the country should compete under the national flag. That’s the Olympic charter ... Anyway, in this part of its decision, WADA contradicts the Olympic charter and we have every reason to sue," Putin stressed.
He added that the fact that WADA’s decision applies collectively to all Russian athletes proves that it is politicized and that the organization does not really care for individual athletes, or "clean sport" in general.
"Any punishment - as it has been since the time of Roman law - must be individual and proceed from what was committed by one person or another. Punishments cannot be of a collective nature and apply to people who have nothing to do with certain violations - and everyone understands this. I think that WADA experts also understand this," Putin told journalists in Paris.