MOSCOW/KYIV (Reuters) - Russia has proposed to ditch technical talks on Ukraine regarding the level of political advisors in the so-called Normandy format, as it sees little progress in the negotiating process, a source in Moscow told Reuters on Thursday.
The Ukraine government later confirmed that it had received a letter from senior Kremlin official Dmitry Kozak proposing scrapping the talks in their current form, without withdrawing from the talks altogether.
Russia wants to end the technical talks between the foreign ministers and heads of states of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany in the Normandy format, so named because the first talks took place in the French region of Normandy in 2014.
“The format of advisors is ineffective,” a source in Moscow said about the letter, without elaborating. “There is little meaning in it”.
The head of the Ukraine president’s office, Andriy Yermak, who has been engaged in talks with Kozak, said the negotiation process “has not been easy”.
“Mr. Kozak’s letter, in my opinion, is more about a subtle diplomatic game, when one of the parties to the talks wants to strengthen its position and seize the initiative,” he said in a statement. He did not say when the letter had been sent.
“However, it is clear that there is no point in talking about the termination of negotiations. The work is still ongoing.”
Relations between Ukraine and Russia collapsed after Moscow’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, and over its backing for fighters in the Donbass region in a war that has killed more than 13,000 people and brought Western sanctions on Russia.
There have been some signs of a thaw in relations, including prisoner swaps. Last week, Ukrainian, Russian and OSCE negotiators agreed on a full ceasefire in eastern Ukraine from Monday, putting on hold the military conflict.
Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin in Moscow and Ilya Zhegulev in Kyiv; Editing by Susan Fenton