KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Diplomatic efforts to defuse tensions around Ukraine continued on Tuesday with French President Emmanuel Macron expected in Kyiv a day after hours of talks with the Russian leader in Moscow yielded no results. no apparent breakthrough.
Macron is due to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy as fears of a possible Russian invasion grow. Moscow has massed more than 100,000 troops near Ukraine’s borders, but insists it has no intention of attacking Ukraine. The Kremlin demanded guarantees from the West that NATO will not accept Ukraine and other former Soviet countries as members, stop weapons deployments there and withdraw its forces from Europe. the East – demands that the United States and NATO reject as non-starters.
In recent weeks, Western leaders have engaged in high-level diplomacy in hopes of defusing tensions and preventing an attack.
Macron sat down with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday for talks that lasted more than five hours. After the lengthy meeting, the two leaders stressed the need for more talks, while registering their disagreements.
Putin noted that the United States and NATO ignored Moscow’s demands, but signaled that he was ready to continue negotiations.
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He also warned that Ukraine’s NATO membership could trigger a war between Russia and the alliance. “If Ukraine becomes a member of NATO and takes steps to recapture Crimea, European countries will automatically be drawn into a military conflict with Russia,” Putin said, noting that “there will be no winners”.
Macron said he had a “substantial and thorough” discussion with Putin, emphasizing conditions that could help de-escalation.
“We tried to build convergent elements,” he said. “The coming days will be crucial and in-depth discussions together will be necessary.” He added that it is Europe’s duty to find a solution to try to rebuild good neighborly relations with Russia.
In Washington, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz met with US President Joe Biden on Monday. Scholz will also travel to Kyiv and Moscow on February 14-15.
Biden promised that the Nord Stream 2 Russia-Germany gas pipeline, which has been completed but is not yet operational, will be blocked “if Russia invades, that means tanks and troops will cross the Ukrainian border again.” economically for Russia but also pose supply problems for Germany.
Scholz warned Moscow that “much more could happen than they may have calculated with themselves” in the event of an invasion.
US officials have described the threat of an offensive against Ukraine as imminent – warnings that Moscow has ignored, accusing Washington of stoking tensions around Ukraine.
Russia and Ukraine have been locked in a bitter standoff since 2014, when, following the ousting of Ukraine’s pro-Kremlin president, Moscow annexed Crimea and threw its weight behind a separatist insurgency in the east of the country. Fighting between Russian-backed rebels and Ukrainian forces in the east has since killed more than 14,000 people.
In 2015, France and Germany helped broker a peace accord, known as the Minsk Accords, which ended large-scale hostilities in the region but failed to bring about a settlement. political settlement of the conflict. The Kremlin has repeatedly accused Kiev of sabotaging the implementation of the agreements, and Ukrainian officials have said in recent weeks that their implementation would be harmful to the country.
After his meeting with Macron on Monday, Putin said without further details that some of the French president’s proposals could serve as the basis for a settlement of the conflict in eastern Ukraine, adding that they had agreed to have a call. after Macron’s visit to Kiev on Tuesday.
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