Ukraine fears being pushed into a ‘bad deal’ with Russia

Ukraine’s foreign minister, Vadym Prystaiko, has expressed concern over the country’s new government facing pressure from western countries to make a deal with Russia that might be unfavourable, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has reported.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Yalta European Strategy (YES) conference, Mr Prystaiko told RFE/RL that Ukraine’s western partners were “preoccupied by progress” and their attitude causes anxiety within the Ukrainian government, pointing to France, Germany and the United States in particular after a long-awaited prisoner exchange between Ukraine and Russia on September 7 many see as a breakthrough in easing tensions and resolving the situation in the Donbas and Crimea.

“I hate this specific word called ‘progress.’ Every time [we meet], our western partners want to have so-called progress. (…) They are pushing us to make some progress. We hope they are equally pushing the Russians,” he said.

Mr Prystaiko also stressed that he understood that western governments “are tired” of dealing with Russia while they face considerable pressure from businesses to lift European sanctions against Russia over its action in Ukraine.

“You can imagine how tired we are,” he noted, mentioning the more than 13,000 people who died in the Donbas war and the two million Ukrainians who have been displaced.

The leaders of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine are expected to convene for the next round of the so-called Normandy 4 talks during the second half of September.

“A full and permanent ceasefire, the final withdrawal of forces in the area of Stanytsia Luhanska, which should be properly verified by the OSCE, will become the first significant steps on the path to peace,” Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky told the press, announcing his priorities for peace in the Donbas.

Discussing the conflict with the Slovakian president Zuzana Čaputová, Mr Zelensky expressed hope that Slovakia, as OSCE’s chair in 2019, would continue to push for a complete withdrawal of pro-Russian separatists from eastern Ukraine.