Monday July 15, 2019
The ice in the frozen lake shifting is one of the coolest sounds you can hear. The air is cold but not freezing, and the woods are silent. The frozen lake looks like it’s been stopped in time, but beneath the placid surface it keeps shifting and moaning. The phenomenon produces amazing sci-fi sound — like a cracking whip.
The phone conversation between the presidents of Ukraine and Russia — Volodymyr Zelensky and Vladimir Putin — last Friday brings to mind the frozen lake acoustics. It lasted for 20 minutes, long enough for two Russian-speaking statesmen to exchange opinions. Zelensky took the initiative, but most certainly, there was some advance planning.
The Kremlin readout was taciturn but acknowledged that the two leaders discussed “issues of a settlement in the southeast of Ukraine” and “opportunities to continue contacts in the Normandy format.” The Kremlin took care to play down the phone call.
Earlier last week, Zelensky had publicly suggested that he and Putin meet in Minsk, Belarus, to discuss the conflict in Ukraine’s east and Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea. He added that he would like the leaders of the United States, Britain, France, and Germany to join the talks. Putin reacted to the idea saying he’s open for talks with Zelensky, but negotiations would be unlikely before Ukraine’s parliamentary elections due on July 21 and after a new Ukrainian Cabinet is formed. Evidently, back channels have been working.