Russia hands ships back to Ukraine

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The "Normandy format" meeting, which will bring together the leaders of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine, aims at resolving the crisis in eastern Ukraine in accordance with the peace agreement reached in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, in 2015.

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 Russian Federation and Ukraine.

Russian Federation on Monday handed over three navy ships it seized a year ago from Ukraine, Moscow and Kiev authorities said, in the latest move to ease tensions between the two countries ahead of a crucial summit.

Russian Federation has long denied Ukraine's allegations that it has been fuelling the conflict, in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, collectively known as the Donetsk Basin or Donbass. Several Ukrainian crew members were injured.

About 13,000 people have been killed in the fighting, according to estimates by the United Nations.

Crimea's border service was not immediately available for comment on Sunday.

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.

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He expressed hope that the talks would "deliver some kind of result". Ukraine, in turn, has obligations to introduce European energy legislation by the end of the year.

It would be the first meeting between Putin and Zelenskiy, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron also set to attend.

It emphasised Russia's position that Ukraine must grant more autonomy to the Donbass.

Russian Federation charged the 24 Ukrainians on board the vessels, including two Ukrainian Security Service officials, with "conspiracy by a group of persons or an organized group to illegally cross the border using violence or the threat to use violence".

However, fighting along the line of contact has continued on an nearly daily basis and the two sides have failed to agree on a way to implement elements of the deal created to end the war there.

The two gunboats and a tug were taken by the Russian coast guard on November 25, 2018, as they passed through the Kerch Strait that connects the Black Sea with the Azov Sea, en route to their home port in Mariupol.

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