In a statement French President Emmanuel Macron, the first leader of a major Western power to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin, said steps can be taken to de-escalate tensions surrounding Russia’s border with Ukraine, and called for calm from all sides.
In contrast to US and British leaders, Macron has chosen to play down tensions and has shuttled from Moscow to Kyiv in a high profile bid to mediate and mitigate the crisis.
Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy have conveyed to Macron that they were committed to the principles of a 2014 peace agreement known as the Minsk accords, which opens a path towards resolving the ongoing dispute.
“This shared determination is the only way allowing us to create peace, the only way to create a viable political solution,” said Macron. “Calm…is essential from all parties in words and in deeds”.
Macron also praised Zelenskiy for “the sangfroid that you are showing, and which the Ukrainian people are showing, in the face of military pressure on your borders and on your country”.
The Ukrainian leader was sceptical of any assurance Putin may have given Macron.
“I do not really trust words, I believe that every politician can be transparent by taking concrete steps,” said Zelenskiy.
Macron also flew to Berlin for a meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
In a statement, Macron and Scholz said, “Our common goal is to prevent a war in Europe.”
Scholz went on to add, “Our appraisal of the situation is united, as is our position on this: any further attack on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine is unacceptable and will draw wide-reaching consequences for Russia – politically, economically and geo-strategically…”
Western countries led by the United States are concerned that Russia may be preparing to invade Ukraine.
Moscow has said, it is not planning an invasion but could take unspecified “military-technical measures” unless a number of security demands are met, including a promise from NATO never to admit Kyiv.
The United States and the European Union have threatened Russia with sanctions if it attacks Ukraine.
Moscow is incidentally Europe’s biggest energy supplier, despite existing sanctions which came into being after it seized the Crimean peninsula in 2014 from Ukraine.
Russia has largely dismissed new sanctions as an empty threat.
U.S. President Joe Biden has warned Russia that “there will be no longer Nord Stream 2”, if it invades Ukraine. Biden did not specify what measures he would take to halt the yet unopened gas pipeline to Germany.
Although Western countries have come together to back Ukraine, they disagree on the likelihood of war.
Kyiv and France think Washington has overstated the threat of a large scale Russian invasion.
Macron believes that Moscow does not have designs on Ukraine but wants to renegotiate European security arrangements. Western countries have said, assumptions of Russia’s true aims cannot be safely assumed until Moscow pulls back its troops from the Ukrainian border.