Zelenskiy Merkel Macron Putin
© REUTERS / Charles Platiau
FILE PHOTO: Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and Russia's President Vladimir Putin attend a joint news conference after a Normandy-format summit in Paris, France December 9, 2019.
Moscow proposed inviting the US to join the Normandy Format discussions on the war in east Ukraine, but Germany and France categorically refused to allow Washington in, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov revealed on Tuesday.

Speaking at the 18th annual meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club in Sochi, Lavrov noted that the US is the country wielding the strongest influence over Kiev, and its inclusion in the discussions could be beneficial for peace in the east of Ukraine.

The format talks began in June 2014, when France, Germany, Russia, and Ukraine met in Normandy, on the sidelines of a ceremony commemorating the 70th anniversary of the D-Day allied landings. This group eventually came together to sign the Minsk Protocol a few months later, the agreement that led to a ceasefire in Donbass, in the east of Ukraine.

The conflict in Ukraine began following the events of the Maidan, which eventually led to the two self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk (DNR) and Luhansk (LNR) declaring independence, a move recognized by neither Moscow nor Kiev. The Donetsk and Luhansk regions are both on the Russian border.

According to the foreign minister, Russia had suggested involving the US in the Normandy talks, but the Germans and the French said "categorically no," instead pushing to keep the format as agreed in the Minsk Agreements.

"The Americans have a dominant influence on [Ukraine's President Volodymyr] Zelensky and his team, so we need to maintain a dialogue with them, and such dialogue has resumed," Lavrov said, referring to the recent meeting with US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Victoria Nuland, who met with Russian Deputy Chief of Staff Dmitry Kozak. Kozak is the Kremlin's point-guy on Ukrainian issues and other issues in the former USSR.

On Monday, Zelensky revealed that he was interested in meeting with Putin in any format, including as part of the Normandy Four. However, in response, Lavrov dubbed the Ukraine leaders' words a "stream of consciousness," noting that there is not enough time in the day to cover everything Kiev says about the war in Donbass.

"They fantasize every day," he told reporters.