"Vladimir Putin seeks that all the conflicts he has waged become ‘frozen’. In Georgia, Moldova, and now in Ukraine as well. His goal is to prevent the Ukrainian authorities from controlling their territory, up to the border with Russia, including Crimea," the former French leader said.
He also expressed confidence that "Ukraine itself is partly responsible" for "the long drawn-out fight against corruption in the country and failure to implement the Minsk agreements."
Asked by the students whether the talks in the Normandy format were fruitful, Hollande answered in the affirmative.
"I spent many hours holding telephone talks with Merkel, Putin and Poroshenko. I don’t know exactly what result these consultations produced but I think they yielded at least one thing: there was a dialogue. And when there is a conversation, the negotiating parties stop killing each another. This was and still remains the outcome of the talks in the Normandy format," the politician said.
He explained that "when Russian-backed separatists continued their offensive in the Donbas, there was an urgent need to secure cease-fire and subsequently withdraw heavy and light weapons."
"Back then in Minsk there was a battle between Vladimir Putin, Petro Poroshenko on the one hand and me and Angela Merkel who came there to achieve a cease-fire. Putin wanted armistice to take effect as late as possible while Poroshenko [wanted it] with all possible dispatch. The hot war was finally over then but that did not mean that the military personnel were no longer killed after Minsk," Hollande said.
In early October, President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko conferred one of the highest state honors - the Order of Freedom – upon Hollande "for his outstanding personal contribution in support of Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence, as well as in countering further aggression in the Donbas and de-occupation of Crimea."
French ex-president and incumbent German chancellor were also awarded for their joint initiative to start talks in the Normandy format which paved the way for diplomatic effort to create peace in the Donbas.