PUTIN’S FIXER

The Ukrainian airspace has been closed to flights from Russia since last November. However, yesterday an airplane with the Russian tricolor on it landed at the Ukrainian international airport. The journalists rang the alarm: who has arrived? who has invited? why? Nobody knew anything.

Later it turned out that the “guest” was Boris Gryzlov, member of the Russian Security Council and Putin’s personal ambassador in matters of particular importance. It shall be reminded Mr. Gryzlov had been in the group, which negotiated the final stage of the Orange Revolution in 2004. Then, the negotiations resulted in the repeat elections and, eventually, in the presidency of the pro-Western candidate Viktor Yushchenko. Probably, that wasn’t what Vladimir Putin wanted to get, but the negotiations helped him save his face.

This time Boris Gryzlov’s arrival is linked to the talks in Minsk on the settlement of the conflict in the eastern Ukraine. The talks are resumed tomorrow, January 13. Until now, the round-table discussions haven’t been in Putin’s favor. The Ukrainian side have played their hand rather well: it was becoming clear that Russia was pulling the strings with the rebels in Donbas. As a result, sanctions against Russia weren’t removed, and Ukraine continued getting political, diplomatic and financial support from the West. This time, the experts agree that Gryzlov has arrived in Kyiv to tilt the balance in Russia’s favor, what with the coming talks in the capital of Belarus. Besides, in the eyes of the Ukrainians, Gryzlov’s image is not altogether negative. At least, it’s quite ok for him to play the part of the “soft cop.”

Let’s wait and see.

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