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Trump to Delay Listing Mexican Cartels as Terrorist Groups

President Donald Trump said Friday in a tweet that he will hold off on designating Mexican drug cartels as terrorist organizations.Trump said all the work had been completed and he was statutorily ready to issue a declaration but had decided to delay at the request of Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador holds his daily news conference in Oaxaca, Mexico, Oct. 18, 2019.There was no immediate confirmation from Mexico, but the government had pushed back against Trump’s plan, saying such a step by the U.S. could lead to violations of its sovereignty.“All necessary work has been completed to declare Mexican Cartels terrorist organizations,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “Statutorily we are ready to do so.”“However, at the request of a man who I like and respect, and has worked so well with us, President Andres Manuel (at) LopezObrador — will will temporarily hold off on this designation.”Under pressure from Trump’s threat to impose tariffs, Mexico has pressed thousands of national guard troops into service to help block Central American migrants from traveling through Mexico to reach the U.S.In place of designating the cartels as terrorist outfits, Trump said the U.S. and Mexico instead will “step up our joint efforts to deal decisively with these vicious and every-growing organizations.”Trump had said in a radio interview just last week that he “absolutely” would move ahead with designating the drug cartels as terrorist organizations, attributing American deaths to drug trafficking and other activity by the cartels.“I’ve been working on that for the last 90 days,” Trump said in the interview when host Bill O’Reilly asked whether such a designation would be forthcoming.O’Reilly had asked if Trump would designate the cartels “and start hitting them with drones and things like that?”Trump replied: “I don’t want to say what I’m going to do, but they will be designated.”Mexican Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard sought meetings with U.S. government officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Ebrard also said on Twitter that he would use diplomacy to “defend sovereignty.”

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Four Dead in Shooting Attack at Florida Military Base

U.S. officials say Friday’s shooting suspect at the Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida was a Saudi aviation student. Authorities say four people, including the gunman, were killed and several others were wounded in the incident. A motive for the attack remains under investigation. This is the second deadly shooting at a U.S. military base this week. VOA Correspondent Mariama Diallo reports.

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Disappearing Frontier: Alaska’s Glaciers Retreating at Record Pace

Alaska will soon close a year that is shaping up as its hottest on record, with glaciers in the “Frontier State” melting at record or near-record levels, pouring waters into rising global seas, scientists said after taking fall measurements.Lemon Creek Glacier in Juneau, where records go back to the 1940s, had its second consecutive year of record mass loss, with 3 meters erased from the surface, U.S. Geological Survey glaciologist Louis Sass told Reuters.Melt went all the way up to the summit, said Sass, one of the experts who travel to benchmark glaciers to take measurements in the fall.”That’s a really bad sign for a glacier,” he said, noting that high-altitude melt means there is no accumulation of snow to compact into ice and help offset lower-elevation losses.At Wolverine Glacier on the Kenai Peninsula south of Anchorage, loss was the second highest in a record that goes back to the 1960s. Sass said it failed to match the record set in 2004 only because so much of the glacier had already melted.”The lower part’s completely gone now,” he said.FILE – U.S. President Barack Obama views Bear Glacier on a boat tour of Kenai Fjords National Park in Seward, Alaska, Sept. 1, 2015.Drastic melting was also reported at Kenai Fjords National Park, which former President Barack Obama once visited to call attention to climate change. There, Bear Glacier, a popular tourist spot, retreated by nearly a kilometer in just 11 months, according to August measurements by the National Park Service.”It’s almost like you popped it and it started to deflate,” said Nate Lewis, a Seward-based wilderness guide who takes travelers into the new lake that has formed at the foot of the shrinking glacier.Even one of the few Alaska glaciers that had been advancing, Taku just southeast of the city of Juneau, is now losing ice at a fast clip.Particularly ominous is the high altitude at which Taku is melting, said Mauri Pelto, who heads the North Cascades Glacier Climate Project. This year, the summer melt reached as high as 1,450 meters, 25 meters above the previous high-altitude record set just last year, he said.Casting off chunksNow that it is retreating, Taku is expected to start casting off big ice chunks, increasing Alaska’s already significant contribution to rising sea levels, according to a study co-authored by Sass and Shad O’Neel, a glaciologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. The study is scheduled to be presented at the annual conference of the American Geologic Union next week in San Francisco.FILE – Chugach National Forest ranger Megan Parsley holds photos showing this summer’s ice loss at the face of Portage Glacier, Alaska, Aug. 17, 2019.Alaska recorded its warmest month ever in July and the trend has continued.”Alaska is on pace to break their record for warmest year unless December is dramatically cooler than forecasted,” Brian Brettschneider, a climatologist with the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ International Arctic Research Center, said in a Dec. 1 tweet.Alaska’s glaciers account for far less than 1 percent of the world’s land ice. But their melt contributes roughly 7 percent of the water that is raising the world’s sea levels, according a 2018 study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters and co-authored by O’Neel.There are also local impacts. Scientists say glacial melt affects salmon-spawning streams and harms marine fish and animal habitats. It is creating new lakes in the voids where ice used to be, and outburst floods from those lakes are happening more frequently, scientists say.Changes in the glaciers and the ecosystems they feed has been so fast that they are hard to track, said O’Neel at USGS, who measured the melt at Wolverine Glacier in September.”Everything’s been pretty haywire lately.”
 

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Saudi Air Force Pilot in Shooting Spree at US Naval Base

U.S. investigators are trying to determine what caused a Saudi air force pilot in the United States for flight training to go on a deadly shooting rampage at a U.S. naval base in Florida.The shooting, which took place at the Pensacola Naval Air Station early Friday, left four people dead, including the shooter. A law enforcement official said another eight people were wounded.Naval Air Station PensacolaThe U.S. Navy and law enforcement officials identified the shooter as a Saudi pilot, one of up to a few hundred foreign nationals who had come to the base in Pensacola for training.NBC News, quoting law enforcement officials, further identified the shooter as Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani.Guns are not permitted at the Pensacola Naval Air Station, but Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan said the shooter managed to get a handgun onto the base before targeting individuals at one of the buildings. Officials said the rampage ended when a sheriff’s deputy cornered and shot the suspect in a classroom.Officials with the U.S. FBI confirmed they were leading the probe, telling VOA it was still in the early stages.”It is too early to determine motive,” a FBI official said on condition of anonymity, admitting terrorism had not been ruled out.This photo taken from video provided by WEAR-TV shows emergency responders near the Naval Air Base Station in Pensacola, Fla., Dec. 6, 2019.Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said the nature of the investigation would be different because of the involvement of the Saudi air force pilot.”There is obviously going to be a lot of questions about this individual being a foreign national, being a part of the Saudi air force,” he told reporters.”The government of Saudi Arabia needs to make things better for these victims,” he added. “They are going to owe a debt here, given that this was one of their individuals.”U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted Friday that he had been in contact with King Salman, who offered condolences.”The king said that the Saudi people are greatly angered by the barbaric actions of the shooter,” Trump said.King Salman of Saudi Arabia just called to express his sincere condolences and give his sympathies to the families and friends of the warriors who were killed and wounded in the attack that took place in Pensacola, Florida….— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly testifies during a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Dec. 3, 2019, in Washington.”These acts are crimes against all of us,” acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly said in a statement Friday.”Our prayers are with the families of the fallen and with the wounded,” he added. “It is our solemn duty to find the causes of such tragic loss and ceaselessly work together to prevent them.”Steve Herman contributed to this report.

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Russian Blogger Given Suspended Sentence for ‘Inciting Online Extremism’

A court in Moscow has handed popular blogger Yegor Zhukov a three-year suspended sentence after finding him guilty of inciting extremism online in a case condemned as politically motivated. 
 
The Kuntsevo district court announced the verdict Friday as hundreds of supporters of Zhukov, 21, a student at Moscow’s prestigious Higher School of Economics, gathered outside the court building in western Moscow. 
 
“The court has established that Zhukov made public calls for extremist activity using the internet,” Judge Svetlana Ukhnaleva said. 
 
Zhukov was arrested in August amid protests that gripped Moscow for weeks this past summer as Russians vented against the country’s repressive political system. 
 
“Of course, this is not an ultimate victory. A big thank you to everyone,” Zhukov said after the verdict was announced. 
 
In his final court appearance, on Wednesday, Zhukov made an impassioned appeal to his supporters — and offered an indictment of Russia’s political system. Economic inequalityRussia’s current political system has fostered economic inequality that, Zhukov said, destroys any opportunity for human prosperity, with the top 10 percent holding 90 percent of the country’s wealth. 
 
“Among them, of course, there are very honorable citizens. But the bulk of this wealth was obtained not by honest labor, for the benefit of people, but by banal corruption,” he said. 
 
Prior to his predawn arrest on August 2, Zhukov had already drawn a sizable audience on YouTube, where he had posted a series of video blogs in which he vented against President Vladimir Putin and promoted opposition protests across the country.  FILE – A wheelchair-bound woman activist surrounded by journalists holds a poster reading, “The Constitution breakers to be brought to justice!” as she talks to police officers during a protest in the center of Moscow, Aug. 17, 2019.In the series of protests that hit Moscow on consecutive weekends during the summer, police detained hundreds of people on various charges. Most were released for misdemeanor violations. 
 
At a different location in the capital Friday, the Tver district court sentenced Nikita Chirtsov, a 22-year-old programmer who took part in an unsanctioned rally on July 27, to serve one year “in a general penal colony.” 
 
Chirtsov was initially fined 12,000 rubles ($185) for violating regulations for holding public events, after which he left Moscow for the Belarusian capital, Minsk. However, Belarusian officials detained him days later on a Russian request and ordered him sent back to Moscow. 
 
Upon his return, Chirtsov was rearrested and charged with assaulting a police officer during the rally and placed in pretrial detention. Chirtsov maintained his innocence throughout the trial, and the police officer involved told the court in November that the suspect “does not deserve imprisonment.” Other cases
 
The Tver district court also fined Pavel Novikov, 32, 120,000 rubles ($1,850) after finding him guilty of assaulting a police officer during the same July 27 rally. 
 
Meanwhile, the Meshchansky district court on Friday handed Vladimir Yemelyanov a two-year suspended sentence after also finding him guilty of assaulting a law officer during the July 27 rally. 
 
Zhukov was initially charged with mass unrest as a result of his participation in the protests, but amid an outcry from his student supporters, prosecutors reclassified the case against him. 
 
The last video he posted before being detained had been viewed more than 300,000 times as of Thursday. Since his arrest, the videos posted to his YouTube channel by his supporters and allies have garnered hundreds of thousands more.

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Britain’s ‘Lesser of Two Evil’ Election May Go Down to Wire

Britons vote next Thursday in the country’s third general election in under four years, with pollsters and politicians warning it isn’t going to be easy to forecast the outcome. As the clock ticks toward the most consequential vote in a generation, the battle for Downing Street appears to be coming down once again to the two main storied parties  Labor and the Conservatives, say analysts, who note that voters have never held the leaders of either group in such high disdain as they do now.The fracturing of the two dominant parties, the revival of the country’s perennial third party, the Liberal Democrats, as well as the formation of a new anti-European Union party and the scrambling of traditional party allegiances, was adding too many variables for accurate prediction, the analysts cautioned, made more complicated by the country’s first past-the-post-voting system. This is where the candidate with the majority of the votes becomes the winner.One opinion poll after another and television debate after television debate have brought home how distrusting the British public has become of both the ruling Conservatives’ Boris Johnson and Labor’s Jeremy Corbyn.Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson sits on a train in London, Dec. 6, 2019, on the campaign trail ahead of the general election on Dec. 12.Johnson is seen widely as an opportunist who will say anything to remain at No. 10 Downing Street but who doesn’t mean what he says and doesn’t say what he means. His public representation for being economical with the truth stretches back to when he was fired as a journalist by The Times newspaper for making up quotes.Corbyn is viewed as more in touch than Johnson with the trials and tribulations of ordinary people, but is judged an impracticable far-left figure from a bygone era whose plan to re-nationalize a chunk of the economy would likely bankrupt the country and who promises far more than can be delivered when it comes to redistributing wealth and reinvesting in Britain’s crumbling public services.Britain’s Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn speaks during a press conference in London, Dec. 6, 2019, ahead of the general election on Dec. 12.Corbyn’s fudge on Brexit — in which he wants to renegotiate yet another exit deal with the European Union and then hold a second referendum while remaining neutral on the plebiscite — has provoked derision from studio audiences.Johnson, too, has faced ridicule in TV studios as well as snubs on the streets when campaigning. “Is that a lie again?” queried an irate Yorkshire woman when he visited flood-hit parts of Britain last month and faced a barrage of criticism from furious locals over Conservative promises of cash aid that had amounted to nothing. In vain he tried to engage some in conversation. “You’ve not helped us … I don’t know what you’re here today for,” sniped one woman, who insisted he get out of her way.Mid-week, fast food giant Burger King decided to use the election to poke fun at Johnson’s reputation for misrepresentation with a new advertisement slapped on the side of London buses, mocking his Brexit promises. “ANOTHER WHOPPER ON THE SIDE OF A BUS. MUST BE AN ELECTION,” the ad declared, a tongue-in-cheek reference both to Burger King’s signature burger, the Whopper, and to political lies.”With a week to go before the election, the central issue seems to come down to trust,” according to The Guardian columnist Gary Younge. “For the Conservatives it is about whether people trust what they say; for Labor, it is about whether voters trust that it can do what it says. The challenge for the Tories (Conservatives) goes all the way to the top,” he added.People attend a “Stop the Brexit landslide” rally in London, Dec. 6, 2019.Many voters do not rate either of the main leaders so they must choose their least worst option, the “lesser of two evils,” say analysts.Conservative strategists hope the distrust voters harbor for Corbyn and Johnson will cancel out each other and that in the end they will win through and maintain their seven-point lead over Labor by garnering all the pro-Brexit vote. They are banking on the pro-EU vote fracturing between Labor and the Liberal Democrats, depriving Corbyn of sufficient seats to form a parliamentary majority or enough seats to cobble together a coalition government with Scotland’s nationalists, who are likely to make major gains north of the border with England.The Conservatives have stayed rigidly on message, trying to make the election as much about Brexit as possible and marketing the fact that they will take Britain out of Europe by the end of January, if they form the next government. Their discipline is working to make sure they are seen as the only real political vehicle for Brexit to happen and the challenge from the newly-minted Brexit Party of Nigel Farage is collapsing.Nigel Farage, Leader of Britain’s Brexit Party poses after speaking on stage at the launch of their policies for the General Election campaign, in London, Nov. 22, 2019.Farage’s party is polling at about 5 percent and midweek, three of the party’s high-profile members urged voters to back the Conservatives, if they want “Brexit to be delivered,” angering Farage.Conservative strategists are also banking on Britons not wanting another deadlocked parliament and that Brexit exhaustion will persuade even pro-EU Conservatives to back Johnson on the grounds that the Brexit mess needs now to be brought to a conclusion and that if Johnson isn’t returned to Downing Street the political impasse will merely be prolonged.The polls in the final days of campaigning have narrowed, with the Conservatives’ lead almost dropping from 13 percent  to 9 or 7 percent, but that is not enough to give Labor much hope of overtaking the Conservatives. Labor’s support in its heartland districts of the north, many of which backed leaving Europe in the 2016 Brexit referendum, is also looking increasingly shaky.But tactical voting by pro-EU voters to upset the Conservatives is a wild card and could upend polling predictions — two former prime ministers, Labor’s Tony Blair and the Conservatives’ John Major, both of whom want Britain to remain in the EU — have been urging Britons to vote tactically in constituencies to deny Johnson a parliamentary majority. Pro-EU organizations have created interactive electoral maps to encourage tactical voting.More people than ever before are expected to vote tactically when a divided Britain has its say on Dec. 12 after more than three years of Brexit uncertainty, according to a Sunday Times poll with up to 6 to 10 percent of its readers thinking about voting tactically.

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Pearl Harbor Commemoration Will Go on After Fresh Tragedy

Officials will beef up security as usual for the ceremony to remember those lost in the attack on Pearl Harbor 78 years ago, with service members and dignitaries confronting a fresh tragedy after a U.S. sailor killed two civilians, wounded another and then turned the gun on himself at the storied military base.The National Park Service, which is hosting the event with the Navy, would not give specifics on the heightened security measures, many of which aren’t readily apparent, Pearl Harbor National Memorial spokesman Jay Blount said.The commemoration of the anniversary of the Japanese bombing that propelled the United States into World War II will go on as planned Saturday, he said. It’s expected to draw survivors, veterans, dignitaries and the public to honor more than 2,300 Americans who perished on Dec. 7, 1941.“We have not heard of anyone canceling plans to attend the event due to security concerns and want the public to know that it will be a safe, fun and enjoyable day for everyone,” Blount said.Across the harbor at the naval shipyard, a sailor on Wednesday shot three civilians working for the shipyard on the base, killing two, before taking his own life. The wounded victim was hospitalized in stable condition.The gunman was 22-year-old G. Romero, according to a military official who spoke on condition of anonymity to provide details that had not been made public.Romero’s job was to stand watch and provide security for the fast attack submarine USS Columbia, which is at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam for maintenance. He used his service rifle to shoot the victims, then killed himself with his service pistol, the official said.Navy officials said they didn’t know the motive for the shooting. It wasn’t known if the sailor and victims knew each other.Tara Kapoi told The Associated Press that her 30-year-old husband, Vincent Kapoi Jr., was one of those killed. She said he worked at the shipyard and grew up in Waianae, a town on the west side of Oahu.“We don’t know what happened,” she said Thursday, asking for privacy.William and Sista Kahiamoe have lived next door to the Kapoi family for about 21 years. They say Vincent’s brother now lives in the home.William Kahiamoe said Vincent Kapoi followed his father into civilian work at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard.“He was a good boy, I know that. Took care of his mom when she was sick,” Sista Kahiamoe said. “He was really good, and he was the oldest child.”College roommate Daniel Vu described Kapoi as a “family guy” who was soft-spoken and extremely hardworking, known for waking up at 3 a.m. to work at the fishing docks to pay for tuition. He told news website Honolulu Civil Beat that Kapoi graduated from the University of San Francisco in 2011 and was proud of his Native Hawaiian and Filipino heritage.“He was very giving, very generous and willing to sacrifice a lot,” Vu said. “He was one of the good guys out there.”Names of the other victims have not been released.Jamie Hiranaka, the president of the union representing the three workers, said they were all quality assurance inspectors whose job was to check welding and other work completed by shipyard workers.The union, the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers Local 121 Hawaii, issued a statement Thursday saying it was doing everything possible to help workers get through the shooting.“Workers were in lockdown on base for hours yesterday; some were witnesses, others heard the gun shots, others locked down into the closest building they could find but most were locked in their offices not knowing (what) was happening. Many emotions were felt yesterday but most were of fear, terror, sadness and grief,” it said.Mass shootings and gun violence are rare in Hawaii. It had the lowest gun death rate among the states in 2017, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. The islands have strict firearms laws, including a ban on assault weapons and large-capacity ammunition magazines.In 1999, a Xerox service technician shot and killed seven coworkers in Hawaii. In 2006, a man fatally shot his taxi driver and a couple taking photos of the city lights from a lookout point in the hills above Honolulu.Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard repairs, maintains and modernizes the ships and submarines of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, which is headquartered at Pearl Harbor. The base is the home for 10 destroyers, 15 submarines and Air Force units.

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The Latest, Best Chance to End East Ukraine War

The leaders of Russia and Ukraine hold their first face-to-face talks in Paris next week as part of a European summit aimed at ending the five-year war between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian rebels in east Ukraine.  
 
In advance of the latest attempt to end the bloodshed in Ukraine’s Donbas region, observers caution that entrenched differences mean Russia and Ukraine may work toward more trust-building measures, rather than aim for a grand bargain.
 
For more than five years, Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian separatists have been locked in a grinding war in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region that has killed more than 13,000. Over that period, the Kremlin has maintained, against all evidence, it is not part of a war in which Russian soldiers, rebranded as “volunteers,” have joined in the fighting on the side of the rebels.
 
European powers, too, have repeatedly tried, and failed, to negotiate an end to the violence.
 
Against that backdrop, enters a newcomer, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.  A comedic actor made famous for a role playing an accidental Ukrainian president on TV,  Zelenskiy won the real thing in a landslide election victory earlier this year. His central promise to voters was to end the war in east Ukraine.
 
Russian analysts say the Kremlin has taken notice.
 
“He promised peace. That was one of the most important points of his election campaign and he tries to deliver,” says Andrey Kortunov of the Russian International Affairs Council in an interview with VOA. “So we see a new flexibility on the Ukrainian side which allowed them to reach a couple of agreements on specific issues.”
 Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, center, visits reconstruction of the bridge crossing over the Siverskyi Donets River, where the local residents cross the delimitation line in Stanitsa village, Luhanska in eastern Ukraine.Successes include a mass prisoner exchange negotiated between Russia and Ukraine in September.  
 
Then, last month, Russia returned three Ukrainian naval ships it had seized a year before,  a gesture that turned sour after Kyiv accused Moscow of stripping the vessels into disrepair.
 
Still, Russian polls indicate a “Zelenskiy effect” as Russian attitudes hardened by state propaganda demonizing Ukraine as overrun by “fascists” have begun to soften.   
 
Zelenskiy’s past television performances, often conducted in the native Russian he grew up speaking, help him jump one of the cultural pitfalls of the Ukraine conflict, says Boris Kagarlitsky, a professor of sociology at the Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences, who has studied political movements in Ukraine and Russia.
 
“There are millions of people in Russia who saw these performances and movies, who laughed at his jokes. He’s funny,” says Kagarlitsky in an interview with VOA in Moscow. “And an enemy should be scary. Zelenskiy’s not,” he adds.  
 
The laughs don’t extend to Donbas — with Ukraine still looking to regain control over territory lost to pro-Russian rebels.
Russia, in turn, is insisting on special status for, and perhaps influence over, self-styled “independent republics” in Donetsk and Luhansk.
Though not recognized by Moscow formally, the east Ukrainian separatist movements provide the Kremlin with a tool to sabotage Ukraine’s stated ambitions to join western institutions, such as the European Union and NATO.Ukrainian policemen patrol a street near the new line of contact in Katerynivka, Luhansk region, eastern Ukraine, Nov. 2, 2019.Meanwhile, foreign policy experts argue the addition of France and Germany to the talks — part of the so-called Normandy Format quartet of nations addressing the Ukraine crisis  — can do little to mask fundamental differences between Moscow and Kyiv over the future of the Donbas.
“On the whole Russia and Ukraine are headed to the Paris summit with such radically different positions over the key aspects of the peace deal, that expecting any serious progress in the Normandy Format is not to be expected,” wrote analyst Vladimir Frolov in the Russian online magazine, Republic.  
“The problem is that each side is certain that the strategic concession should be done by the other,” added Frolov.
Meanwhile, Zelenskiy faces other political challenges:
 
His efforts to make peace with Moscow have alienated nationalist forces at home. Recent polls show a 20-point drop in his ratings, which is inevitable, Zelenskiy’s supporters say, for impossibly inflated hopes.
 
Another factor is European pressure on Ukraine to accept the terms of earlier failed peace efforts — negotiated between France, Germany and Russia under Zelenskiy’s predecessor Petro Poroshenko — as simply the best deal Ukraine can get against its more powerful Russian neighbor.  Among agreed measures, the so-called Minsk II Protocols allow Russia to decide whether Ukraine had made adequate constitutional concessions to the Donbas separatist regions before handing back control of Ukraine’s eastern border.The Paris talks’ host, French President Emanuel Macron, in particular, has signaled a recent readiness to mend relations with Moscow despite hybrid military campaigns that saw Russian “volunteer” soldiers stream into east Ukraine to join in the fighting. There’s also the lingering question of Moscow’s direct annexation of Crimea from its neighbor in 2014.
 
Finally, there is Ukraine’s cameo role in the impeachment hearings in Washington — a focus that has put Trump administration’s support for Ukraine into question just when Zelenskiy needs it most.  
 
Given the complexities, both sides are playing down expectations for now, while hinting at other trust-building agreements.  
 
Possible Plan B deliverables would include a second prisoner exchange or a deal to deliver Russian oil and gas through Ukraine to Europe.
 
Either would prove a smaller but important step toward rebuilding a modicum of trust.
 
They’re also a tacit acknowledgement: Ukraine and Russia remain locked as neighbors, whether they like it or not.