MOSCOW: The Kremlin confirmed on Monday that Russian President Vladimir Putin would take part in a four-way international summit in Paris on Dec. 9, an attempt to advance efforts for a peaceful resolution to the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
The French presidency said on Friday that the leaders of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine would take part. But until Monday the Kremlin had failed to publicly confirm its attendance.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Monday that Putin would attend, but declined to discuss what Moscow’s expectations for the event were.
Agencies add: Russia on Monday handed back three naval ships it captured last year to Ukraine, something Kiev wanted to happen before a four-way peace summit on eastern Ukraine next month in Paris.
The handover, confirmed by the two countries’ foreign ministries, occurred in the Black Sea off the coast of Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
Russia seized the ships in the same area in November last year after opening fire on them and wounding several sailors. Moscow said the ships – two small Ukrainian armoured artillery vessels and a tug boat – had illegally entered its territorial waters. Kiev denied that. Russia returned the sailors who had been on board the ships to Ukraine in September as part of a prisoner exchange deal.
Various Russian media outlets reported that the ships would be returned to Ukraine on Monday without their ammunition and documentation. Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement Moscow would respond harshly in future to what it called any similar maritime “provocations” near its borders. Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the three captured ships were en route to the port of Odessa.
It said that their original voyage, which Russia had interpreted as a border violation, had been peaceful and legal and that Kiev planned to pursue a case against Russia over the matter at an international arbitration panel in the Netherlands. Despite those and other continuing tensions, the handover is likely to be seen as a confidence-building measure ahead of the planned Ukraine summit however.