French President Emmanuel Macron travels to Kyiv on February 8 after extended talks in Moscow with President Vladimir Putin in Moscow as international diplomacy over the Ukraine crisis goes into overdrive.
Macron told a news conference in the Kremlin that he made proposals of “concrete security guarantees” to Putin and that the Russian leader had assured him of his “readiness to engage in this sense and his desire to maintain stability and the territorial integrity of Ukraine.”
The French leader said he found points of convergence with Putin, and added that the coming days would be crucial in the standoff prompted by Moscow’s military buildup near Ukraine, which the West suspects is the prologue of an invasion.
Macron said he told Putin that creating a new security architecture in Europe should not be done by canceling the right of states to join the NATO alliance.
U.S. officials say Russia has deployed some 110,000 troops near the border with Ukraine and is on track to amass a large enough force — some 150,000 soldiers — for a full-scale invasion by the middle of the month.
The French presidency said the proposals discussed include a pledge by both Russia and the West not to take any new military action, the launching of a new strategic dialogue, and efforts to revive the peace process in eastern Ukraine.
Putin in turn said Moscow would “do everything to find compromises that suit everyone,” adding that several proposals put forward by Macron could form a basis for moving forward on the crisis over Ukraine.
“A number of his ideas, proposals…are possible as a basis for further steps,” Putin said after the talks, describing them as useful, substantive, and businesslike, although Macron admitted that differences remain.
Putin said that he and Macron would talk again by phone after the French president’s talks with the Ukrainian leadership on February 8 in Kyiv.
The Russian leader reiterated that he saw no alternative to the existing Minsk peace accords to resolve the conflict in eastern Ukraine and said Kyiv must comply with the steps outlined in agreements reached in 2014 and 2015.
“Whether they are alive or have any prospects or not — I believe that there is simply no other alternative” to the Minsk agreements, Putin said.
The leaders of Ukraine, Russia, Germany, and France have met under the so-called Normandy format to seek an end to the conflict. The agreements have been hamstrung by differing interpretations of its contents and the process for implementing them.
Diplomats have tried to breathe new life into the accords, which contain the groundwork for a final settlement in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, parts of which have been under the control of pro-Russian separatists since April 2014.
In Washington, U.S. President Joe Biden held his own crisis talks with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz as the flurry of diplomacy over Russia’s troop buildup near Ukraine spanned two continents.
The two leaders stressed their unity and trust as they work to further deter Russian aggression in Europe. Biden said Germany and the U.S. were in “lockstep” as they work to address tensions.
Biden also vowed to “bring an end” to the disputed Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which was built to deliver Russian gas to Germany but has not yet gone into operation.
“The notion that Nord Stream 2 would go forward with the invasion by the Russians is just not going to happen, Biden said during a joint news conference with Scholz.
He did not specify how the U.S. would be able to carry out such a move, but stressed that Germany and the United States were prepared to act together in their response to any invasion.