Russia undercuts Macron’s claims of a Putin deal on Ukraine

Washington: Moscow cast doubt on French President Emmanuel Macron’s comment he had received assurances from President Vladimir Putin that Russia wouldn’t escalate tensions with Ukraine.

Macron was in Ukraine on Wednesday AEDT meeting with President Volodymyr Zelensky, a day after Putin said some of the ideas discussed with the French leader could form “the basis for future common steps”.

French President Emmanuel Macron, right, is welcomed by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky before their talks.Credit:AP

Putin repeated his warning against Ukrainian membership in NATO.

Moscow has repeatedly denied that it plans to attack Ukraine, while the UK and US say Russia has massed almost 130,000 troops close to the border.

Macron said on Tuesday he’d received assurances from Putin that he would not escalate the situation further with Ukraine.

Even so, Russia later cast doubt on that claim, while pointing out that its troops were already due to leave Belarus on February 20 once their exercises have been completed.

Russian President Vladimir Putin.Credit:AP

Following five hours of talks between the two leaders on Monday, an official in Macron’s office, at first said that Putin had agreed not to undertake any new military initiatives in the region and to withdraw Russian troops from Belarus once they have concluded the exercises they are involved in. The official didn’t give a timeline for the soldiers to leave Belarus.

The French official later said Putin’s commitment on military initiatives was not firm, but rather conditional on his view of the evolving situation.

Putin’s spokesman declined to comment on any assurances about military deployments and said that Russian troops were already due to leave Belarus on February 20 once their exercises have been completed.

A French government official said Macron’s remark that Putin assured him of no further escalation was in reference to not massing any further troops near the Ukraine border. But the official added it was a conditional commitment and the situation, and its perception by Putin, could change.

Still some distance between their positions. Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron meet at the Kremlin.Credit:Kremlin via AP

The French president said he received assurances from Putin that Russia wouldn’t escalate further around Ukraine. The Kremlin wouldn’t confirm that, instead blaming the West for fuelling tensions.

“I obtained that there will be no worsening and escalation,” Macron told reporters on the plane from Moscow to Kyiv after nearly six hours of talks in the Kremlin Monday evening.

He didn’t elaborate on what assurances he’d received and there was no mention of any specific steps in his joint briefing Monday night with Putin.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to comment on the French assertions but blamed the US and its European allies for ignoring Russia’s security concerns and adding to tensions with weapons deliveries to Kyiv.

Looking for a breakthrough: French President Emmanuel Macron.Credit:AP

He said Russian troops will return to their bases after manoeuvres in Belarus later this month. “Putin noted that in Macron’s ideas there are rational elements on the basis of which work can continue,” Peskov said. “But it will in large part depend on what the tone of his discussions in Kyiv are today and later with his colleagues in the European Union and NATO.”

Rape lyric

It’s emerged that during Putin and Macron’s media conference, the Russian leader, in criticising Ukraine’s president, referenced an obscene song lyric from a Soviet-era punk band.

“Whether you like it or don’t like it, bear with it, my beauty,” Putin said, in demanding Zelensky implement elements of a 2014 ceasefire agreement on eastern Ukraine.

Experts said the quote came from a song called Sleeping Beauty in a Coffin by Red Mold.

Responding to Macron’s report that he gained assurances from Putin that Moscow wouldn’t escalate frictions with Ukraine, a Kremlin spokesman said that was not so clear.

EU penalties

The European Commission, the bloc’s executive body, has taken the lead in mulling possible penalties for Russia should it invade Ukraine.

But it has held back on providing written details to the 27 member nations, which would need to give their unanimous backing to any action, according to diplomats who asked not to be identified talking about the preparations.

Those diplomats said officials are shunning paper, as well as a group discussion within the bloc, to avoid leaks and highlighting potential differences between states.

EU officials have also said concrete proposals would only be shared if Russia actually took action, since sanctions are not a tool for deterrence.

The lack of detail has limited the extent to which member states can prepare for the economic fallout at home from any sanctions, one EU diplomat said.

Prices for European natural gas rose following Biden’s remarks that the Nord Stream 2 pipeline would be scrapped in the event of a Russian invasion.

Europe’s energy crisis has been exacerbated by the prospect of reduced flows from Russia amid geopolitical tensions surrounding Ukraine.

Macron met with Putin for about six hours Monday night in a bid to inject momentum into discussions on the Kremlin’s European security demands and efforts to revive the stalled Ukraine peace process.

Putin said that some of the ideas proposed by Macron could form “the basis for future common steps” and he pledged to do “everything to find compromises.” At the same time, Putin stuck to a tough stance, repeating his country’s complaints about the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation increasing its presence near the Russian border and warning against any Ukrainian membership in the military bloc.

Putin said the US’s written response to Russia’s call for legal guarantees for an end to NATO’s eastward expansion and a pullback of its military presence from central and eastern Europe ignored the main demands and focused on secondary issues. He added that Russia is still preparing its answers for Washington and NATO.

Britain is considering deploying Typhoon fighter jets and warships to protect Southeastern Europe, Prime Minister Boris Johnson wrote in an op-ed for the Times newspaper. The U.K. is also preparing to reinforce the NATO battlegroup in Estonia, he said.

The potential moves come amid a Western push to bolster forces in Eastern Europe in an attempt to deter possible Russian aggression in Ukraine. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Monday reiterated the alliance’s push to increase its presence in the east and said it’s considering a longer-term adjustment to boost troops there.

Bloomberg with reporter

Get a note directly from our foreign correspondents on what’s making headlines around the world. Sign up for the weekly What in the World newsletter here.

Most Viewed in World

From our partners

Source: Read Full Article