November 17, 2019 / 12:09 PM / 6 months ago

Russia flags possible 2019 summit on eastern Ukraine

FILE PHOTO - Russia's presidential aide Yuri Ushakov speaks with journalists after a meeting of President Vladimir Putin with U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia October 23, 2018. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

MOSCOW (Reuters) - A summit between France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine to try to resolve the conflict in eastern Ukraine is possible this year but no date has been agreed, a Kremlin aide said on Sunday.

France said on Friday that the so-called Normandy summit will take place in Paris on Dec. 9, but Moscow has not confirmed either the plans or the date.

“I think there will be a chance to organize (the summit) this year. I can’t say the exact date, because it is still under discussion, but, obviously, this year,” Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov told a news show on local TV network Russia-1.

If it happens, the Normandy summit, named after a meeting in the northwestern French region of the leaders of the four countries in 2014, will take place following a breakthrough in relations between Russia and Ukraine.

Moscow and Kiev exchanged prisoners in September and this month Ukrainian government forces and Russian-backed rebels began withdrawing from a village in the disputed Donbass region.

Russia began moving three captured Ukrainian navy ships on Sunday, Reuters reported, after a Russian newspaper said Moscow would return them to Ukraine ahead of a summit.

The summit plans are not directly tied to legislation giving Donbass a special status, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said during the same Sunday news show, Interfax reported.

Reporting by Andrey Kuzmin, editing by Louise Heavens and Alexander Smith

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