KYIV: French President Emmanuel Macron, the first leader of a major Western power to meet with Vladimir Putin since Russia mustered troops near Ukraine, said Tuesday he believes steps can be taken to de-escalate the crisis and called for all parties to remain calm.
Macron, who, unlike US and British leaders, has downplayed the likelihood that Russia will soon invade its neighbor, shuttled from Moscow to Kiev on Tuesday in a bid to reach a settlement and avoid war.
The French president had no breakthroughs to report, but Macron said he thought his talks had helped prevent the crisis from escalating further. He said he never expected Putin “for a second” to make concessions.
Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy had told him they were committed to the principles of a 2014 peace deal, he said, adding that this deal, known as the Minsk accords, provided a way to resolve their pending disputes.
“This shared determination is the only way to create peace, the only way to create a viable political solution,” Macron said at a joint press conference with Zelenskiy.
“Calm… is essential from all parties in word and deed,” Macron said, praising Zelenskiy for the “sangfroid” he and the Ukrainian people showed when Russia sent more than 100,000 troops, tanks and heavy weapons to Ukraine’s borders. collects.
Zelenskiy made it clear that he was skeptical of any guarantees Macron would have received from Putin. “I don’t really trust words, I believe that every politician can be transparent by taking concrete steps,” he said.
Moscow has denied plans to invade but is asking for drastic concessions from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the military alliance that has supported security in Western Europe since 1949.
The demands include a pledge not to place missiles near Russia’s borders, a curbing of NATO infrastructure and a ban on Ukraine from ever joining the alliance.
Russia’s military buildup gained momentum on Tuesday with the arrival of three warships in the Black Sea, according to a Reuters witness. Turkish sources said three more would pass through the Bosphorus on Wednesday, in what Russia’s Interfax news agency reported as a pre-planned exercise.
Macron later flew to Berlin to meet with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. In a statement alongside Macron before the talks began, Scholz told reporters: “Our common goal is to avoid a war in Europe.”
“Our assessment of the situation is unanimous, as is our position on it: any further attack on Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity is unacceptable and will have far-reaching consequences for Russia – politically, economically and geostrategically,” he added. †
Macron and Scholz also met with Polish President Andrzej Duda in Berlin. The French presidency said after the talks that the three leaders expressed their joint support for Ukraine’s sovereignty.
The meeting further illustrated European convergence on a “committed and demanding approach” to Russia, the French presidency added.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg, who was asked in an interview with CNN about the likelihood of a Russian invasion, said: “There is no certainty, but what we are seeing is an ongoing military build-up with more and more troops … the risk of a attack increases.”
WESTERN FEAR OF AN INVASION
The United States and the European Union have threatened Russia with sanctions if it attacks Ukraine. Moscow, still Europe’s largest energy supplier, despite sanctions already in place since the Ukrainian peninsula’s capture of Crimea in 2014, has largely dismissed new sanctions as an empty threat.
US President Joe Biden warned on Monday that if Russia invades Ukraine, “there will be no more Nord Stream 2,” referring to a newly constructed, yet unopened gas pipeline to Germany. He did not specify how he would stop it.
Although Western countries have united to support Ukraine, they disagree on the likelihood of war.
French officials have suggested they think Washington has overestimated the threat, and Kiev has also downplayed the likelihood of a large-scale invasion.
Macron, who is expected to be re-elected in April, said before leaving on his trip to Moscow that he believed Russia had no plans with Ukraine but wanted to renegotiate European security arrangements.
But whatever Moscow’s true intentions, Western countries say they cannot safely assume the crisis will end without war unless Russia withdraws its troops.
The European Central Bank is preparing banks for a possible Russia-sponsored cyber-attack as tensions with Ukraine mount, two knowledgeable people said, as the region braces for the financial fallout from a conflict. read more
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