Vladimir Putin: Diplomacy on Ukraine crisis must “step up” | Ukraine-Russia crisis
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said diplomatic efforts must be stepped up to find a solution to the Ukraine crisis, a signal that Moscow may be ready to discuss ways to roll back the threat of war in Europe.
After a call with French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday, Putin blamed NATO for “injecting modern weapons and ammunition” into Ukraine.
The phone conversation took place two weeks after Macron traveled to Moscow to persuade Putin to refrain from sending massed troops to the border with Ukraine.
A Kremlin statement said Putin and Macron had discussed the supply of arms and ammunition by NATO countries to Ukraine, which the Kremlin said was pushing Kiev towards a “military solution” against separatists in the east of the country.
“As a result, civilians…who have to evacuate to Russia to escape intensified bombing are suffering,” the Kremlin said.
He added: “The presidents believe it is important to intensify efforts to find solutions through diplomatic means.”
Putin and Macron agreed that these efforts should be led by the foreign ministers and representatives of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine, which make up the Normandy negotiating group.
“Armed and Loaded”
The Russian leader told Macron that Western countries should provide concrete, point-by-point responses to demands made by Moscow last December to limit the West’s role in Eastern Europe and ex-Soviet countries.
“Vladimir Putin reiterated the need for the United States and NATO to take Russian demands for security guarantees seriously,” the Kremlin statement said.
Pavel Felgenhauer, a Russian military analyst, told Al Jazeera that Russian forces were “armed, loaded and ready to go” but added “is the political climate right for this – I’m not so sure”.
“Macron is trying to do something but the problem is that he can’t really pressure Russia if they don’t want to do it… and he can’t pressure the United States either. His mediation is therefore not very qualified,” Felgenhauer said.
Russia has extended military exercises near Ukraine’s northern borders amid growing fears of two days of sustained shelling along the line of contact between soldiers and Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. Ukraine cause an invasion. The Ukrainian president has called for a ceasefire.
The drills were originally scheduled to end on Sunday and brought a large contingent of Russian forces into Belarus. The presence of Russian troops has raised fears that they could be used to sweep the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, a city of around three million people less than three hours away.
NATO estimated that there were 30,000 Russian troops in Belarus.
“Intense diplomatic work”
Western leaders have warned that Russia is about to attack its neighbor, which is surrounded on three sides by around 150,000 Russian troops, fighter jets and equipment. Russia held nuclear drills as well as conventional drills in Belarus on Saturday, and has ongoing naval drills off the Black Sea coast.
A senior European Union official, Charles Michel, said: “The big question remains: does the Kremlin want dialogue? We cannot always offer an olive branch while Russia carries out missile tests and continues to gather troops,” said Michel, the president of the European Council.
During the 105-minute phone conversation, Macron’s office said he and Putin agreed on “the need to prioritize a diplomatic solution to the ongoing crisis and to do everything to achieve it,” the minister added. French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and his Russian counterpart. Sergei Lavrov would meet “in the coming days”.
Putin and Macron said they would work “intensively” to allow the trilateral contact group – which includes Ukraine, Russia and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe – to meet “in the coming hours in the aim of getting all interested parties to commit”. to a ceasefire on the line of contact” in eastern Ukraine, where government troops and pro-Russian separatists face each other.
“Intense diplomatic work will take place in the coming days,” Macron’s office said, with several consultations due to take place in the French capital.
Biden will meet Putin ‘at any time’
Macron and Putin also agreed that talks between Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany should resume to implement the so-called Minsk Protocol, which in 2014 had already called for a ceasefire. in eastern Ukraine.
Both also agreed to work towards “a high-level meeting with the aim of defining a new order of peace and security in Europe”, Macron’s office said.
US President Joe Biden, meanwhile, is ready to meet Putin “at any time” to prevent a war in Ukraine, according to his head of diplomacy.
“Until tanks actually roll and planes fly, we will use every opportunity and every minute we have to see if diplomacy can still dissuade President Putin from pursuing this,” Secretary of State Antony said. Blinken to CNN.
He then told CBS’s Face the Nation that Biden had “made it very clear that he is ready to meet with President Putin at any time, in any format, if it helps prevent a war.”
The two leaders last spoke by phone on Feb. 12, according to the White House.
Blinken added in an interview with NBC’s Meet the Press: “I contacted Foreign Minister Lavrov a few days ago suggesting that we meet next week in Europe to see if we can continue conversations that would would prevent a war and address the security concerns that we all have – the United States, Europe and Russia in this conversation.
“He came back and said, ‘Yeah, let’s meet. And we responded and said the meeting was happening – provided you don’t invade Ukraine in the meantime.