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Andrey Kortunov

Ph.D. in History, Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council, RIAC member

It appears that there are two points of view among top Russian officials regarding likely developments in Ukraine over the coming year and what they will mean for Moscow.

The first says that Ukraine’s political pendulum has reached its highest point and that President Volodymyr Zelenskiy is the best possible negotiating partner for reaching an agreement on the Donbass and, possibly, a wider array of issues.

The opposite view supposes that Ukraine’s political pendulum hasn’t reached its high point yet, and that the distribution of political power in 2020 will continue to change in Russia’s favor. Moreover, it says that the degree to which Zelenskiy is independent from Ukrainian oligarch groups is still unclear, as is his ability to control the security forces. Consequently, Moscow should not rush with new initiatives or proposals, especially if they will lead to a revision of the Minsk agreements.

It appears that there are two points of view among top Russian officials regarding likely developments in Ukraine over the coming year and what they will mean for Moscow.

The first says that Ukraine’s political pendulum has reached its highest point and that President Volodymyr Zelenskiy is the best possible negotiating partner for reaching an agreement on the Donbass and, possibly, a wider array of issues.

Under this assumption, any further pressure on Zelenskiy would only make him weaker and could lead to the political resurgence of radical nationalist elements in Kiev. Thus, Moscow should support Zelenskiy and show maximum flexibility when it comes to the Minsk agreements and shows of good will. This could also mean making concessions on gas transit and restoring economic relations with Kiev.

The opposite view supposes that Ukraine’s political pendulum hasn’t reached its high point yet, and that the distribution of political power in 2020 will continue to change in Russia’s favor. Moreover, it says that the degree to which Zelenskiy is independent from Ukrainian oligarch groups is still unclear, as is his ability to control the security forces. Consequently, Moscow should not rush with new initiatives or proposals, especially if they will lead to a revision of the Minsk agreements.

If the first point of view is geared toward achieving a breakthrough in the coming year, the second says that it will be enough to cement the existing status quo by freezing the conflict in eastern Ukraine and postponing any substantial agreements to a more distant future.

Source: The Moscow Times.

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