Vladimir Putin keeps his distance from Emmanuel Macron during diplomatic foray into Ukraine
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Newly released images from a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron on Monday show the two men seated at opposite ends of a long, oval table in an ornately decorated room in the Kremlin.
Macron traveled to Moscow to keep alive hopes of a negotiated solution to the standoff between Russia and the West over Ukraine. Chancellor Olaf Scholz was scheduled to meet President Biden in Washington later in the day.
“The dialogue is necessary because, in my opinion, it is the only thing that will help build a context of security and stability on the European continent,” Macron said after the meeting, in which he called for de-escalation.
“I welcome this opportunity to discuss all of these issues in depth… and to start building an effective response,” added the French president, who was due to visit Ukraine on Tuesday.
Thanking Macron for the visit, Putin said: “I see how many efforts the current leadership of France and the President personally are making to solve the crisis related to ensuring equal security in Europe for a serious historical perspective.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the visit between the two leaders “very important” before adding that “the situation is too complex to expect a decisive breakthrough after just one meeting”.
Peskov insisted that the US and its allies continued to ignore Putin’s security demands and that the “atmosphere remained tense.”
Putin wants to ensure that Ukraine and other former Soviet satellites are barred from ever becoming NATO members, that Western forces withdraw from Eastern Europe, and that the US pledges not to station missile systems or troops in Ukraine.
The diplomatic focus is now on Washington and Scholz’s first visit to the White House.
The Chancellor and Biden should discuss the economic sanctions that will be imposed on Moscow if Putin launches an invasion and the consequences for Nord Stream 2, the natural gas pipeline that runs between Russia and Germany under the Baltic Sea.
On Monday at the State Department, European Union Foreign Affairs Representative Josep Borrell estimated that 140,000 Russian troops have massed along the border with Ukraine, a day after White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan warned that an invasion ” take place at any time” could result in massive casualties and a refugee crisis in Europe.
“If Russia invades Ukraine one way or another, Nord Stream 2 will not move forward,” Sullivan promised. “And Russia understands that. We are aligned with our allies on this and that will be the reality if Russia decides to move forward.”
A senior government official said Sunday the White House is “confident” that Berlin shares its concerns about Russia’s military buildup and the need for deterrence.
“We have made our position very clear, as I have outlined,” they said. “And what I can say is that we will continue to work very closely with Germany to ensure that the pipeline does not go ahead.”
With mail wires