Commentary V4

Putin plays Merkel and Macron

After being reinstated to the Council of Europe, Russia was meant to release imprisoned Ukrainian mariners. Vladimir Putin, however, has played both Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron.

As revealed by Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s representative in the CoE, Russia’s return to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) was meant to be part of a secret plan between Russia, France, Germany and Ukraine. 

The CoE gave Russia three conditions: the release of Ukrainian mariners, the permission of the Assembly’s commissar for human rights to enter Crimea and to pay overdue contributions to the CoE (EUR 70 mln). 

Moscow, after its status was restored, did not fulfil its end of the bargain and also tried to frame Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky.

According to the May decision of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, Russia was meant to release the mariners before June 25th, 2019. Meanwhile, PACE was voting over restoring Russia’s member rights. 

Ukrainian media reported that Zelensky had been negotiating the release of the sailors during his visits to France and Germany, in exchange for restoring Russia’s position.

When this happened, Russia wanted to free the mariners but only under the condition that they would be tried in Ukraine. Ukrainian Foreign minister Pawlo Klimkin, (who is on leave from Monday) rejected the proposal without informing Zelensky and claimed that Russia should release the prisoners unconditionally.

Klimkin’s decision was supported by Kiev analysts who believed that he had saved the inexperienced president from making a dangerous mistake for Ukraine.

“This was an impudent provocation. Moscow lead Zelensky on, who had not gauged their true intentions and not assessed the risk and almost got played,” top Ukrainian political scientist Volodymyr Fesenko explained, adding that the mariners would not have been judged in Ukraine and accepting the decision of the Russian court would have meant accepting Russian jurisdiction in Crimea.

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