The Russian and Ukrainian presidents have come face-to-face for the very first time on the grounds of the Normandy Four summit in Paris, which focuses on the years-long conflict in eastern Ukraine.
The high-profile talks, involving leaders of Russia, France, Germany and Ukraine kicked off in Paris on Monday. It’s the first meeting since 2016 of the highest-level representatives of the Normandy Four.
All eyes were set on Putin and Zelensky from the onset, and those watching the footage couldn’t help but notice that the recently-elected Ukrainian president became a bit disoriented.
At first, Zelensky tried to get into the seat reserved for Putin – only to get helped by Macron into a chair across the table.
Then, a live feed showed the Ukrainian leader missing the timing for the group photo, this time getting some help from Putin, who gestured for Zelensky to turn around and face the reporters.
Since arriving in Paris, Putin has talked with Merkel, while Zelensky met Macron. It soon became apparent that the Monday talks would last longer than expected and the schedule was shifted. The much anticipated tête-à-tête meeting between the Russian and Ukrainian presidents is expected to take place after the main talks but before the final press conference.
The Normandy Four format was conceived in 2014 in an attempt to try to stop the conflict in eastern Ukraine. The fighting between the Ukrainian authorities and two self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Lugansk erupted after a coup in Kiev toppled President Viktor Yanukovich. The talks have ultimately yielded a peace plan, known as the Minsk Agreements, early in 2015.
The format has been in limbo since 2016. The plan agreed in Minsk is far from having been fully implemented, and low-intensity fighting continues in eastern Ukraine up to this day.
While the Paris meeting is not expected to bring peace to Donetsk and Lugansk at once, it is hoped it would reinvigorate the negotiations and potentially result in a lasting ceasefire between the warring parties.