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German Chancellor Angela Merkel stated that there is no reason to lift the European Union's sanctions against Russia as Moscow has not fulfilled all of its commitments under an international peace plan. This is a clear evidence that Putin’s attempt to deceive the Western partners does not bring him dividends.
What was the main aim of Kremlin’s game in Donbas? It was an effort to maintain its control over the occupied territories and to achieve softening of sanctions against Russia. And Putin has chosen a very simple way to achieve it. He decided just to convince his partners that equally Russia and Ukraine are responsible for the unresolved conflict. But no one punishes Ukraine for non-fulfilment its part of obligations? So why should be Russia punished?
The Western partners have only partly perceived this logics. Thus, “Norman Quartet” countries demand that both Russia and Ukraine perform the Minsk commitments. But along with that sanctions remain a lever of pressure against Moscow. And while the Minsk agreements are not met, sanctions will not be lifted. This is bad news for Putin.
2017 year is strategically important for the Russian president. If this year the Russian state companies cannot refinance and pay off their debts, the irreversible changes in Russian economy will begin. These changes will cost Putin not only money, but also power.
It is clear now that the Kremlin will try to lift the sanctions with the help of his well-wishers in the European Union. However, such attempts have been already made in the past, and they did not bring success. To cancel the sanctions, Putin must first make Berlin change its position. And Putin is not able to do it.
What should Ukraine do in this situation? Nothing special. Ukraine must realize that the Minsk peace talks is a trap for the arrogant aggressor. A trap, in which the enemy should die ignominiously. Ukraine must demonstrate its readiness to carry liabilities. President Petro Poroshenko in a telephone conversation with his Kazakh counterpart Nursultan Nazarbayev said that he was willing to compromise, but the Parliament did not support him. Apparently, Poroshenko is on the right way way. The West understands the situation. Ukrainian leadership is committed to fulfill its obligations, but society is not ready to do it. Parliament would not vote on these commitments. Any western politician had been in Poroshenko’s place, he would have been shrugging his shoulders.
Putin’s parliament is obedient. And he had repeatedly demonstrated it. So no one prevents Putin from fulfilling the Minsk agreements. Russia does not fulfill its obligations, and the reason of it is the will of the president. When Putin says Russia is going to leave the "Normandy format," he makes the sanctions endless.
So Putin is on the right way. And Angela Merkel too.