French President Emmanuel Macron said on Tuesday he had received assurances from his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, that there would be no “worsening or escalation” of the crisis in Ukraine.
Macron was giving a speech on his way to Kyiv, where he met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky later five hours of talks on Monday night with Putin in Moscow.
Macron’s visit is the latest Western diplomatic attempt to reduce tensions due to Russia’s military build-up more than 100,000 troops around Ukraine.
“For me, it’s about arranging things to prevent escalation and open up new paths. . . and that goal has been achieved,” Macron told reporters accompanying him on the plane, according to AFP, while acknowledging that Putin was “determined, quite sure of himself and making his own arguments.” “.
After meeting Zelensky in Kyiv, Macron added that Putin had made a commitment to Russian troop movements in Belarus on Ukraine’s northern border as well as a commitment not to escalate.
“He said he would not be the one instigating escalation,” Macron told a news conference, warning, however, that “no one is (not) naive.”
“The recent deployment has been linked to a tense situation and you didn’t hear me say anything about it yesterday,” he noted.
Russia said Putin and Macron were “prepared to continue dialogue” on the French proposals but the discussions have yet to assuage Moscow’s concerns or come to an agreement.
“That is not possible because France is a member of the EU, and of Nato, where it is not a leader. Another country in that bloc is the leader. So how can we talk about any ‘deal’? Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Tuesday.
Western leaders are setting up an 11-hour diplomacy in hopes of persuading Putin to reject what they believe could be plans for a new invasion of Ukraine.
Analysts say any military action by Russia would overshadow the death toll from the separatist conflict in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas border region, where more than 14,000 people have been killed in the past eight years. Ukraine and the US argue that Russia is promoting the Donbas war by providing troops and weapons. Moscow, which invaded and annexed Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in 2014, officially denies helping the Donbas separatists fight Kyiv.
Russia has stationed more than 106,000 troops on its border with Ukraine and is holding exercises in neighboring Belarus with about 30,000 additional troops.
Putin has denied that he is planning an invasion and blames the US and NATO, which he accuses of ignoring Moscow’s security needs. Western officials say Russia’s main demand – that Ukraine never joins NATO and that the Western military alliance give up its presence – is unacceptable. Instead, they have sought to address other issues such as arms control.
During their press conference, Macron and Zelensky denied reports that the “Finnishization” of Ukraine, or turning it into a neutral country by abandoning ambitions to join the existing Nato military alliance, had Be discussed.
“I don’t compare anything,” Macron said. “I said [to Putin] He added that ending Nato’s open door would pose problems for a number of European countries, including Finland and Sweden,” he added, referring to new debates in those countries. that neutral on the choice to join the alliance. He added that he had “never used” the word Finlandisation, contrary to what reports in several news outlets earlier on Tuesday had suggested.
Zelensky said “‘Finnishization’ of Ukraine. . . This is my first time hearing it. ”
Peskov said Russian forces, some of whom have traveled as far as the Pacific in recent weeks, would leave Belarus after the drills but declined to give a date for the withdrawal.
Macron confirmed later on Tuesday after meeting with German chancellor Olaf Scholz and Polish president Andrzej Duda in Berlin that Putin and Zelensky had committed to re-engage in the so-called “Normandy format” negotiations – involving concerns Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany – to keep the negotiations moving forward.
“We have to find ways and means to have this challenging and important dialogue with Russia in different forms,” he said. “In the coming days and weeks we will have negotiations in the Normandy format, as that is the political framework to resolve the Ukraine crisis.
Another session of the Normandy talks will be held in Berlin on Thursday, he added, although deep differences remain between Moscow and Kyiv over how to implement the stalled 2015 Minsk agreements.
Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, reacted cautiously to Macron’s comments about the possibility of de-escalation.
“We are encouraged by any diplomatic efforts,” Psaki said. “If there is diplomatic progress, we welcome it, but we will believe it when we see it with our own eyes at the border.”
“We still don’t have any predictions about what President Putin will do. We cannot control what Russia will do next. What I think President Macron played a role in doing yesterday is making clear. . . Psaki says there will be huge consequences if Putin chooses to continue invading Ukraine.
Additional reporting by Polina Ivanova in Moscow and James Politi in Washington