It will be the two of them, face to face: Vladimir Putin and Petro Poroshenko. While in Eastern Ukraine the battle is ongoing, all democratic efforts are focused on the occasion which will bring together the Russian and the Ukrainian Presidents. The background will be the meeting of the Heads of State of the Customs Union, to take place on 26 August in Minsk – the second meeting between the two after the first quick bilateral during the celebration of the 70th Anniversary of the Normandy Landings.
Putin will be there and “will hold a series of bilateral meetings,” confirmed the Kremiln, guaranteeing “further communications” in case of confirmation of the meeting with the Ukrainian leader. A bilateral hasn’t been arranged yet then, but “it is being prepared” according to the Russian newspaper Kommersant, which cites sources “close to the organization of the event.” No confirmation from Kiev, but the Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration, said he hopes the meeting in Minsk will be “the beginning of a true negotiation process for the solution of the Ukrainian crisis.”
The Euopean Commission is to be present too, invited by both Poroshenko and Putin. The High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton, the commissioner for Energy, Gunther Oettinger, and the Commissioner for Trade, Karel De Gucht. “The purpose of the Commission is threefold,” said Chantal Hughes, spokesperson for the European Commission: the idea is “to discuss the implementation of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement,” which includes a Free Trade Agreement, then “to relaunch energy talks possibly in a trilateral format in September” in order to find a solution to the gas dispute and finally “to discuss political security concerns, reiterating the EU’s concern regarding the security and humanitarian situation in Eastern Ukraine.”
The concerns are shared by the European Commission President, José Manuel Barroso, who talked about the issue during a phone call with Poroshenko. Barroso “condemned the shelling of a convoy of internally displaced people” and urged the Ukrainian President to open an enquiry on this incident. The main thing, reminded Barroso, is “the need to protect civilian lives.”