On September 18, Russia’s TASS state news agency, citing an anonymous source, reported that Ukraine’s government was putting plans for the next “Normandy Format” summit “at risk” by not agreeing to the so-called “Steinmeier formula.” That formula is named after ex-German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who in 2015 proposed that Ukraine’s Donbas and Luhansk oblasts be granted special status after holding local elections.
The TASS article acknowledged that this special status is contingent on elections in those regions being certified by the OSCE. But the article left out other key conditions, including that elections in Donbas must be held according to Ukrainian law, allowing Ukrainian political parties to participate. Last November, the leaders of the Russian-controlled territories in Donbas held their own elections, despite objections and condemnation by both Kyiv and Western governments. None of the internationally recognized election observation missions, such as the OSCE, monitored those elections, meaning those votes did not allow the Russian-controlled territories in Donbas to qualify for special status under the Steinmeier formula.
More importantly, the same day the TASS report was published, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko said that his country had already agreed to the text of the Steinmeier formula on September 2, even though it had not yet formally signed it.
"It is necessary that all parties represented at this table, all media represented here, have access to the elections, and so on,” Prystaiko said, according to the Ukrainian news outlet UNIAN. “Only then can the elections be recognized as corresponding to OSCE standards."
The TASS article left out key details of the “Steinmeier formula,” specifically, the conditions of its implementation requiring Russia’s own compliance.