Q. – Today, in the current situation, do you think there’s a glimmer of hope in Ukraine, frankly?
THE MINISTER – As you know, we’re working a lot on this, the French President and I; as you remember, it’s the Normandy format. In Minsk a few days ago, we managed to facilitate an agreement which no doubt makes it possible to move from the escalation we were in to a de-escalation.
Today we’re doing concrete work. The ceasefire is being respected in general but we must remain extremely cautious. The next phase, according to what was signed, is the withdrawal of heavy weapons. Certain heavy weapons have been withdrawn, others not.
Q. – And the withdrawal of the Russian forces that are present in Ukraine?
THE MINISTER – Of course. That presence is denied, but the separatists aren’t arming themselves all alone.
Q. – In your view, are there clearly Russian soldiers fighting alongside the separatists?
THE MINISTER – I think so. So the Minsk agreement must be implemented, and in that regard everyone acknowledges that the action of both Germany and France has been absolutely decisive. Since the Ukraine issue began, we’ve always taken the same position.
On the one hand, you have to be extremely firm. What does Russia want? What does Mr Putin want? He probably wants to have a very strong influence over all the neighbouring countries, but he can’t do it to the detriment of international law. He invaded Crimea, which is unacceptable. So we’re saying we must show firmness – hence the sanctions. At the same time, we’re not going to declare war on Russia. So you must allow this dialogue.
France’s constant attitude has been to be firm but, at the same time, facilitate dialogue. Hence the Minsk agreement a few weeks ago, and we’re still taking the same line. (…)./.