Ukraine crisis: Sliver of encouragement for diplomatic progress at Russia’s mention of Minsk Agreements | World News

There have been plenty of top level diplomatic phone calls so far this weekend.

Foreign ministers Blinken, for America, and Lavrov, for Russia, spoke.

Mr Blinken also spoke to Britain’s Liz Truss. President Putin spoke to French President Macron.

And the most pivotal call, in theory at least – an hour-long chat between President Biden and Putin.

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On the face of it, the conversations seem to have changed little. The debrief we had from the White House talked of a “professional” and “substantive” call.

“There was no fundamental change in the dynamic that has been unfolding now for several weeks,” a Biden administration official said.

We’re told that President Biden was “very direct” to Mr Putin in his concern about the safety of Americans in Ukraine.

The two men apparently agreed to remain engaged, which is positive, but the Americans say Russian military action in Ukraine remains a “distinct possibility” which is less positive.

The Russian interpretation of the phone call is important.

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The Kremlin said it was “business-like and balanced” but added that the American “hysteria” about an imminent Russian invasion had reached its peak – “an absurd level”.

In saying that, they’ll look pretty foolish if they go ahead and invade next week won’t they? Unless, of course, they conjure up a pretext to invade.

For me, the sliver of encouragement came from the Russians making a point of mentioning the Minsk Agreements in their read-out to reporters of the substance of the call.

If there is any sign of vague diplomatic progress or avenues to calm tensions – off-ramps to use the diplo-jargon – then it is here.

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Mr Putin reportedly told Mr Biden that the West hasn’t put enough pressure on Ukraine to abide by the Minsk Agreements (the 2015 peace talks).

The problem is that Moscow and Kyiv have very different interpretations of the agreement.

But the fact that it’s still part of the discussion is positive. Creative diplomacy around Minsk could be the key.

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