Merkel and Putin negotiate to trade Crimea’s sovereignty for guarantees on energy security and trade
MARGARETA PAGANO @INDYVOICES : INDEPENDENT
Germany and Russia have been working on a secret plan to broker a peaceful solution to end international tensions over Ukraine.
The Independent can reveal that the peace plan, being worked on by both Angela Merkel and Vladimir Putin, hinges on two main ambitions: stabilising the borders of Ukraine and providing the financially troubled country with a strong economic boost, particularly a new energy agreement ensuring security of gas supplies.
More controversially, if Ms Merkel’s deal were to be acceptable to the Russians, the international community would need to recognise Crimea’s independence and its annexation by Russia, a move that some members of the United Nations might find difficult to stomach.
Sources close to the secret negotiations claim that the first part of the stabilisation plan requires Russia to withdraw its financial and military support for the various pro-separatist groups operating in eastern Ukraine. As part of any such agreement, the region would be allowed some devolved powers.
At the same time, the Ukrainian President would agree not to apply to join Nato. In return, President Putin would not seek to block or interfere with Ukraine’s new trade relations with the European Union under a pact signed a few weeks ago.
Second, Ukraine would be offered a new long-term agreement with Russia’s Gazprom, the giant gas supplier, for future gas supplies and pricing. At present, there is no gas deal in place; Ukraine’s gas supplies are running low and are likely to run out before this winter, which would spell economic and social ruin for the country.
As part of the deal, Russia would compensate Ukraine with a billion-dollar financial package for the loss of the rent it used to pay for stationing its fleets in the Crimea and at the port of Sevastopol on the Black Sea until Crimea voted for independence in March.
However, these attempts by Ms Merkel to act as a broker between President Putin and Ukraine’s President, Petro Poroshenko, were put on the back-burner following the shooting down of the MH17 plane in eastern Ukraine.
But insiders who are party to the discussions said yesterday that the “German peace plan is still on the table and the only deal around. Negotiations have stalled because of the MH17 disaster but they are expected to restart once the investigation has taken place.”