PARIS – French President Emmanuel Macron and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin spoke by phone on Sunday and agreed on the “need to prioritize a diplomatic solution to the current crisis” and secure a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine in the coming hours, according to a statement from Mr Macron’s office.
The statement added that “if the conditions are met”, the diplomatic track should allow the organization of “a meeting at the highest level in order to define a new peace and security order in Europe.”
However, the Kremlin has shown little optimism. In a statement released after the call, she said Putin reiterated his claim that Western countries are pushing the Ukrainian government for a “military solution” to its conflict with Russian-backed separatists in the east.
The Ukrainian government in Kiev insists it has no plans to launch an offensive against the separatist regions, but over the weekend separatist leaders began an “evacuation” of women and children, claiming that such an attack was imminent.
After his call with Mr Putin, Mr Macron spoke with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, praising his “composure” and “determination to prevent escalation”.
Mr. Macron also spoke to President Biden, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
More specifically, the French and Russian presidents, who spoke for an hour and 45 minutes, agreed to resume diplomatic work in the meantime. Normandy format talks – A negotiating channel established seven years ago by France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine to resolve the regional conflict in eastern Ukraine. He will also meet with the French and Russian foreign ministers in the coming days.
The presidents also discussed various ways to quickly de-escalate the security crisis in and around Ukraine.
This was announced by the Belarusian Defense Minister on Sunday The Russian military deployment in Belarus will be extended as part of joint exercises, raising fears that it could be used to invade Ukraine. But a senior official in Mr Macron’s office, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with French government practices, said Mr Putin had told Mr Macron that “these exercises will not be permanent” and that Russian forces would withdraw from Belarus at some point.
Macron’s office also said that “extensive work” would be carried out to enable the meeting of the Tripartite Contact Group, a group of officials from Ukraine, Russia and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe that has tried to facilitate a diplomatic way out of the war in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine.
The aim of this meeting, expected to take place on Monday, is to “obtain a commitment from all parties involved for a ceasefire” on the front line in eastern Ukraine between Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian government forces.
Mr. Zelensky wrote on twitter He told Mr Macron during their call of “the current security situation and the new provocative bombing”. Mr Macron’s office said the call was part of his efforts “to preserve ways out of the crisis through dialogue and diplomacy”.
“The risk is great and our concern is strong, but we believe that the resources for diplomacy have not been exhausted,” the senior French official said.
Although the Kremlin said that “the search for solutions through diplomatic means” should be intensified, it also “stressed” that Kiev “strongly rejects the implementation of the Minsk agreements and the agreements reached in the Normandy format.”
Mr Macron’s approach to the crisis so far has been to try to defuse it Intensive conversation with Mr. Putin. Sunday’s call was the fourth conversation between the two leaders on tensions on the Ukrainian border since mid-December, including Mr Macron’s visit to Moscow this month. This approach initially prompted France not to express excessive concern about the possibility of Russian forces invading Ukraine.
But in the face of the Russian build-up on the Ukrainian border, France’s position has changed little in recent days. French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Saturday in A statment That “Russia’s actions and words are inconsistent” and Russia warned against “any further violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity.”
On the same day, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs Updated its recommendations for travelers to Ukraine He urged all French citizens who remain there without a compelling reason to “leave the country”. It also advised French citizens to postpone any trip to Ukraine.
Unlike the United States, France has kept its embassy in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine. “We stay in Kiev,” the French ambassador to Ukraine wrote on twitter at. Saturday.
Anton Troyanovsky Contribute to the preparation of reports.