The agreement opens the way for a Summit in the Normandie-format between Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany in Minsk. Russia had previously refused a summit without the Ukraine agreeing to elections and a special status allowing for self-government of Donbass.
There is still disagreement about the timing of the election. The separatists want the election first and withdrawal of fighters later, while Ukraine insists on the withdrawal of fighters before holding an election. In preparation for the election, the Ukrainian government and separatist leaders said they would withdraw troops from two locations in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions next week.
The agreement has been welcomed in Moscow and both Paris and Berlin have said they are ready for a summit. Different from his predecessor, Zelensky, who was elected with a landslide, holds a majority in parliament. This should help him overcome opposition from hardliners in Kiev.
Ukraine signs key agreement with pro-Russia separatists
‘A Victory for Common Sense’: Russia Reacts to Ukraine’s Donbass Compromise
Ukraine has agreed to sign a peace plan with pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine that it had previously rejected, marking the first major breakthrough since a lapsed 2015 peace accord and a step toward an international peace summit.
Negotiators meeting in Minsk, Belarus on Tuesday agreed on a schedule to allow elections in eastern Ukraine’s breakaway regions after a law is passed to grant them special self-governing status — a plan known as the Steinmeier Formula.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said the elections should take place only after the withdrawal of Russian-backed fighters and after Ukraine has regained control over its border with Russia.
The move marks a major step in the peace process for eastern Ukraine, which has been devastated by a five-year conflict that has killed more than 13,000. Its signing has been met with backlash and protests in Ukraine, with critics calling the agreement a capitulation to Moscow.
Senator Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the Federation Council's foreign affairs committee:
“The Steinmeier Formula signed today by all parties is, without a doubt, a victory for common sense and an overall success. But most of all, it’s a victory for those who are waiting for the resolution of the conflict: the residents of southeast Ukraine for whom this formula was developed and for whom it will work sooner or later.”
“Trying to divide this success into ‘ours’ and ‘theirs’ is equal to provoking a breakdown in the peace process. The nationalists in Kiev have already gone ahead with this. No need to help them.”