By Ebi Kesiena
French President Emmanuel Macron said on Tuesday that he had convinced Russia’s Vladimir Putin not to escalate the crisis around Ukraine, ahead of talks in Kyiv aimed at defusing fears Moscow could invade.
During a five-hour meeting over dinner in the Kremlin Monday, Macron said he offered Putin “concrete security guarantees” as the West scrambles to deal with Russia’s massive troop build-up on Ukraine’s border.
“I obtained that there will be no degradation nor escalation,” the French leader told journalists as he arrived in Kyiv for talks with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky.
“My aim was to freeze the game, to prevent an escalation and open up new perspectives. This objective for me is fulfilled,” he said.
Putin who has demanded sweeping security guarantees from NATO and the United States told Macron that Moscow would “do everything to find compromises that suit everyone”.
He said several proposals put forward by Macron could “form a basis for further steps” on easing the crisis over Ukraine, but did not give any details.
At the same time as sending its military hardware to Ukraine’s borders, Moscow issued demands the West says are unacceptable, including barring Ukraine from joining NATO and rolling back alliance forces in eastern Europe.
The French Presidency said Macron’s counter proposals include an engagement from both sides not to take any new military action, the launching of a strategic dialogue and efforts to revive the peace process in Kyiv’s conflict with Moscow-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.
It also said an agreement would ensure the withdrawal of some 30,000 Russian soldiers from Belarus at the end of joint military exercises later this month.
“I didn’t think for a second that he was going to make any gestures yesterday,” Macron said of Putin.
Macron, who was the first Western leader to meet Putin since the crisis began in December faces a tough task trying to convince a wary Zelensky to accept any compromises.
Kyiv has laid out three “red lines” that it says it will not cross to find a solution no compromise over Ukraine’s territorial integrity, no direct talks with the separatists and no interference in its foreign policy.
Moscow is pressuring Ukraine to offer concessions to the Russian-backed rebels who have been fighting Kyiv since 2014 in a conflict that has claimed over 13,000 lives.
Putin baited Zelensky by calling him “my beauty” as he used a controversial idiom to insist Kyiv must stick to a tattered 2015 peace deal.
However, the Russian leader warned Macron’s talks in Kyiv would “not be easy either” and said he planned to speak again with the French leader after his meeting with Zelensky.