Russia has recognised Ukraine’s newly-elected president Petro Poroshenko by opening talks with him (through the Russian ambassador in Ukraine) on 8 June.
The talks have for now dispelled talk of further US or EU sanctions against Russia, and boosted the Russian stock market.
According to the Financial Times (9 June), Putin has three chief demands.
Ukraine to “give regions veto powers over foreign policy decisions made by Kiev — in part as a guarantee of Russian interests.
“That would involve arrangements similar to those the 1995 Dayton Agreement produced in Bosnia-Herzegovina” (three governments in the area, loosely coordinated by a confederal administration and international control).
Poroshenko is for rights for the Russian language in Ukraine, and greater decentralisation, but can scarcely cede a built-in Russian veto over Ukrainian policy.
Secondly, Putin does not want Ukraine to join NATO. Neither does Poroshenko, so agreement should be possible there.
Thirdly, Putin does not want closer relations between Ukraine and the EU. Ukraine joining the EU is out of the question in the short term, since no-one in Ukraine pushes it as an immediate move, and even if someone did, the EU would be unwilling any time soon to admit a new member state much poorer than Romania.
Poroshenko will find it hard not to go ahead with the trade deal with the EU which Yanukovych concluded last year and then pulled out of, thus sparking the movement which eventually toppled him. Whether some modification will satisfy Putin remains to be seen.
There seems no real possibility for Ukraine to unwind the separatist coups in its east without Russian cooperation. Stepped-up military efforts by Kiev would only give Russia a pretext to intervene directly.
Solidarity supports the right of self-determination for the Ukrainian nation; the Ukrainian left in its efforts to unite workers east and west against the oligarchs and corruption; and real help to Ukraine by the US and EU through the cancellation of debt.