ROUNDUP 3: Putin and Macron agree on the need to calm the Ukraine conflict

(new: US government)

PARIS / MOSCOW (dpa-AFX) – France’s head of state Emmanuel Macron and his Russian colleague Vladimir Putin have reached an agreement on the need to de-escalate the Ukraine conflict. This was announced from Élysée circles following the hour-long phone call between the two presidents on Friday. In order to reduce tensions, bilateral talks between the heads of state should be continued – as well as the negotiations to solve the Ukraine crisis in the Normandy format, in which Germany and France mediate.

In the conversation, Putin reiterated Russian demands for binding guarantees for security in Europe, as the Kremlin announced. Putin also said that Russia is now analyzing the written responses from the US and NATO to his proposals and then determining further steps. Paris also called the dialogue about the security guarantees demanded by Moscow a means of de-escalation.

According to the Kremlin, Putin also pointed out that Russia’s main concerns had not been taken into account by the West in the answers. These include the demand for an end to NATO expansion, the renunciation of offensive weapons near the Russian borders and also the withdrawal of the bloc’s military potential and infrastructure to the positions of 1997. At that time, the Russia-NATO Founding Act was signed. The US and its allies have also ignored the key issue of the “indivisibility” of security.

By this Moscow means that a country must not strengthen its own security at the expense of the interests of another state. With this, Russia justifies its opposition to Ukraine’s admission to NATO, because it considers the advance of the military bloc to be a threat. Russia sees itself connected to parts of Ukraine through a centuries-long history and criticizes the fact that the USA and NATO have declared the country their sphere of influence – without considering Moscow’s interests.

The US government stressed on Friday that Russia had assembled sufficient military forces for a possible attack on Ukraine. But one does not believe “that President Putin has made the final decision to use these forces against Ukraine,” said US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin at the Pentagon. US Chief of Staff Mark Milley warned of numerous civilian casualties in the event of a Russian invasion. “And if war breaks out on the scale that is possible, civilians will suffer tremendously,” Milley said.

In a telephone conversation with his German colleague Annalena Baerbock, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov emphasized that Moscow wanted to prevent further expansion of NATO and the stationing of offensive weapons. The Greens politician wrote on Twitter that the dialogue with Russia was being continued openly and principledly.

Lavrov also called on member states of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to respond to Moscow’s demands – in particular on the principle of “indivisible security”, which is enshrined in many international documents. According to Lavrov, a letter was to be sent to the OSCE foreign ministers on Friday.

In his conversation with Macron, Putin again insisted on fulfilling Kiev’s obligations in the Minsk peace agreement and pointed out the planned special status for the breakaway eastern Ukrainian areas in the Donbass, both Russian and French sources said. Macron, on the other hand, pointed out with regard to Ukraine that Russia must recognize the sovereignty of all European states.

In Paris on Wednesday there were direct talks between Moscow and Kiev for the first time on the hitherto unfulfilled Minsk agreement – with Franco-German mediation. Above all, the commitment to the ceasefire in the conflict region was reaffirmed. According to the German statement, there were no substantial advances. In two weeks there should be a follow-up meeting in Berlin.

Macron also wanted to speak to his Ukrainian colleague Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Friday evening. He tried again in Kiev to avert panic – and emphasized that from the Ukrainian point of view there was no greater escalation than a year ago. Foreign journalists are welcome to come to Kiev and see for themselves, Zelenskyy said at a press conference. “Are there tanks on our streets? No, but that’s how it feels when you’re not here.”

In view of a Russian troop deployment on the Ukrainian border, Western countries have repeatedly expressed concern that Moscow could be planning an invasion of the neighboring country. The Kremlin denies these allegations.

“If it depends on Russia, then there will be no war. We don’t want wars. But we also don’t allow our interests to be trampled on, our interests ignored,” said Foreign Minister Lavrov. With a view to the conflict in eastern Ukraine, he once again emphasized that the Ukraine crisis could be resolved through the peace plan. Moscow repeatedly warns that NATO and the US are trying to push Russia and Ukraine into war against each other.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg meanwhile criticized the fact that Moscow is continuing its troop deployment despite all calls for de-escalation. “Russia is moving more troops, more heavy equipment, and now thousands of combat troops to Belarus,” Stoltenberg said at an online event hosted by the Atlantic Council think tank in Washington. “So the upgrade continues.”

In view of the danger of war in Eastern Europe, the EU and the USA want to expand their cooperation in the energy sector. The aim is to ensure reliable and affordable supply for the population and companies in the EU and its neighboring countries, according to a joint statement published by EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and US President Joe Biden. This is to avoid “supply shocks” that could result from a Russian invasion of Ukraine./mau/DP/he


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