KYIV, Ukraine (AP), - French President Emmanuel Macron stated Tuesday that Russian President Vladimir Putin had told him that Moscow would not escalate the Ukraine crisis.
Macron said that it would take time for a diplomatic solution to the growing tensions. These are the most serious security crisis between Russia, the West and Russia since the Cold War.
The Kremlin refuted reports that Putin and he had reached a deal to de-escalate the crisis. Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesperson, said that Moscow and Paris cannot be making any deals in the current circumstances.
In the midst of growing fears about a Russian invasion, Macron met with Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Ukrainian President. Moscow has gathered more than 100,000 troops close to Ukraine's borders but denies any plans to attack.
The Kremlin demands that NATO refuses to accept Ukraine and other ex-Soviet nations as members. It also requests that NATO halt weapon deployments in Ukraine and that it pull back its forces from Eastern Europe. These are demands that NATO and the U.S. reject as nonstarters.
After meeting Zelenskyy at a press conference, Macron stated that Putin had told him Monday during their five-hour long session that he would not be initiating an escalated situation. It is very important.
According to Putin, there will be no Russian "permanent military base" or deployment in Belarus. This is a country where Russia has sent large numbers of troops for war games.
Peskov stated that withdrawing Russian troops in Belarus was the plan after the maneuvers.
Zelenskyy stated that he would welcome concrete actions from Putin to de-escalate the situation, and added that he did not trust "words in general."
Macron sought to temper the expectations.
He said, "Let's be realistic." "France has not been inclined to exaggerate since the start of the crisis. But at the same, I don’t believe that this crisis can be solved in a few hours through discussions."
Zelenskyy described his meetings with Macron as "very fruitful."
Zelenskyy stated that President Macron shares a common view on threats and challenges to Ukraine's security, as well as the security of Europe in general.
He stated that France had given Ukraine 1.2 billion euros ($1.3billion) in financial assistance and helped to rebuild infrastructure in the war-ravaged east.
In recent weeks, Western leaders have been engaged in high-level discussions. More are expected amid military drills in Russia or Belarus. The Russian Defense Ministry announced Tuesday that six amphibious landing vessels were moving from the Mediterranean Sea to the Black Sea for exercises, and two Tu-22M3 long range nuclear-capable bombers flew another patrol above Belarus.
Macron stated that he didn't expect Putin to make "gestures" Monday and stated that his objective was "preventing an escalation” and opening up new perspectives. This objective has been met.
Macron claimed that Putin had "set a collective trap" in initiating the exchange documents with the U.S. Moscow submitted demands to Washington as draft agreements, which were made public. Moscow demanded a written reply, which was then published.
He stated that "there has never been a crisis in diplomacy that was solved by exchanging letters that are made public afterwards." That's why he went to Moscow to have direct talks.
Later, Macron flew to Berlin where he briefed Andrzej Dura, the Polish President, and Olaf Scholz, the German Chancellor. They stated that their stance was united with the common goal of "preventing war in Europe".
After Monday's meeting, Putin stated that NATO and the U.S. ignored Moscow's demands but indicated their willingness to continue talks. He reiterated his warning that NATO membership could lead to war between Russia, NATO and Ukraine if Kyiv tries to retake Crimean Peninsula which Moscow annexed in 2014.
NATO, the U.S., and European leaders have rejected the demands, saying they challenge NATO's core principles. They want to close the door to Ukraine and other countries that might be interested in joining; however, they have offered to talk about other Russian security concerns in Europe.
U.S. President Joe Biden stated that any possibility of Ukraine joining NATO "in the near future is not very probable," but he, other alliance members and NATO themselves refuse to exclude Ukraine's future entry.
Biden met Monday morning with Scholz. He will also travel to Kyiv on February 14-15. Biden threatened Russia with serious consequences if it invaded. He also promised that the Nord Stream 2 Russia to Germany gas pipeline, which was completed but not yet operational, would be blocked. This would not only be bad for Russia, but it could also lead to energy supply issues in Germany.
In a Times of London article, Boris Johnson, the British Prime Minister, urged allies and to end heavy economic sanctions that would be in effect if Russia crossed into Ukraine. As he was preparing to meet with the Lithuanian prime minster in London, he said that the U.K. was ready to support NATO forces in Latvia or Estonia.
Johnson stated that he considered sending RAF Typhoon fighters along with Royal Navy warships to southeastern Europe. Britain announced Monday that it will send 350 troops to Poland in support of NATO's eastern flank. It has already sent anti-tank weapons from Ukraine.
Romania's Defense Minister Vasile dincu stated that more than 100 U.S. military personnel arrived in Romania in advance of the expected arrival of approximately 1,000 NATO troops in the country.
According to U.S. officials, approximately 1,000 troops from the alliance will be sent from Germany via Romania. Romania is a NATO member country since 2004. Romania is bordered by Ukraine to the north. Around 1,700 soldiers from the 82nd Airborne will also be going to Poland.
Officials from the United States have described the threat of invasion of Ukraine imminent as a serious threat -- warnings Moscow dismissed, accusing Washington for igniting tensions.
Since 2014, Russia and Ukraine have been in bitter conflict. After Ukraine's Kremlin-friendly President was ousted, Moscow annexed Crimea, and later supported a separatist insurgency to the east. Over 14,000 people have been killed in fighting between Russian-backed rebels, Ukrainian forces.
France and Germany worked together to broker the Minsk peace agreements in 2015. This agreement, also known as the Minsk, ended large-scale hostilities, but did not lead to a political solution. In recent weeks, Ukrainian officials have stated that the implementation of the Minsk agreements would be detrimental to Ukraine. The Kremlin has accused Kyiv repeatedly of sabotage the agreement.
Putin spoke to Macron after meeting him and said that Macron's proposals could be used as a basis to a settlement of the separatist conflicts. He also stated that they would speak by telephone following Macron's visit in Kyiv.
Peskov stated that such a call would be made "in the near future".
Macron stated that both Zelenskyy and Putin had confirmed their willingness to implement the Minsk Agreements -- "the only way to build peace...and find a lasting political solution."
Macron also stated that the French, German, Russia, and Ukraine presidential advisors will meet in Berlin Thursday to discuss the next steps. He said, "It will be time to get results."
Zelenskyy was vague about Ukraine's position on the Minsk Agreements and whether he had assured Macron that Kyiv is fully committed to doing so. He said only that Ukraine views Thursday's meeting "very positively" but hoped for a follow-up meeting between the four leaders.
Annalena Baerbock (German Foreign Minister) visited the Donbas front in eastern Ukraine to get a sense of "what it means that there is still war in the middle Europe."
Since 2014, Ukraine has received approximately 1.8 billion euros of aid from Germany. Part of this aid goes to those who have been forced to flee their homes by fighting.