The presidents of France, Emmanuel Macron, and Russia, Vladimir Putin, have promised this Friday to continue the dialogue on the military tension around Ukraine, although they maintain “very important” disagreements on the causes of the situation and its possible solutions.
Ukrainians in Spain: “We just want to live in peace, like the rest of Europe”
Macron and Putin “have agreed on the need to continue the dialogue,” a source from the Elysee told the press after a telephone conversation between the two leaders of just over an hour. Even so, “dialogue is difficult”, since “we have very important disagreements”, he acknowledged.
The French presidency believes that this Friday’s exchange “has made it possible to give more credibility to the dialogue in this period of tension” and to the “need” for a de-escalation in Ukraine, near whose borders Russia has deployed around 100,000 soldiers and an important military armory. “Putin has clearly said that he did not want confrontation,” the official French source assured.
Putin keeps his demands
The Russian president has kept his demands on the table, both so that Ukraine cannot enter NATO, and on the establishment of a direct dialogue between the Kiev government and the Donbas separatist rebels.
On the first point, Putin has repeated “his demand that NATO give guarantees on his security,” said the official French source. The United States and the Atlantic Alliance responded in writing this week to Russia’s security demands, with the Kremlin replying that “there is not much reason for optimism” as NATO is not giving up its open-door policy.
Moscow also wants the withdrawal of offensive forces and weapons in other European countries from the former Soviet bloc that it would also like to see outside the Atlantic Alliance. “Nobody can strengthen their security at the expense of the security of other countries,” the Russian leader stressed, quoted by a Kremlin statement.
In addition, Putin has insisted to Macron on the importance of the Ukrainian government strictly complying with the 2019 Minsk Agreements, especially with regard to “direct dialogue” with the rebels to define the “special status” of the eastern region of the Donbas within Ukraine.
Russia presses so that, as indicated in these agreements, Ukraine reforms its Constitution and Parliament approves a statute that guarantees autonomy to Donbas and a political process to ensure that it will be applied in practice.
From the other side, Kiev demands guarantees that if it carries out these reforms it will regain full sovereignty over those territories and is reluctant to negotiate directly with the separatists
Macron defends Ukrainian sovereignty
The French president has stressed to Putin that “it is necessary for Russia to respect the principle of sovereignty of the States”, in a clear reference to Ukraine, for reasons “of security confidence in Europe”.
The two presidents have agreed to continue working on the result of the meeting on the 26th in Paris of the four countries of the so-called Normandy Format (France, Russia, Germany and Ukraine), which showed “unconditional” support for the ceasefire in Donbas and detailed possible measures to strengthen it.
Macron plans to speak this Friday afternoon with the Ukrainian president, Volodímir Zelenski, to whom, according to the Elysee, he will reaffirm Paris’s commitment to respect its sovereignty, to avoid a conflict and to find a way to apply the Agreements from Minsk.
In addition, Macron took advantage of the telephone interview with the head of the Kremlin to develop his idea that “a new security order is necessary in Europe for everyone”, including Russia, and that “Europeans must be the actors of security and of stability in Europe”.
In this sense, the Elysée source has highlighted that “at some point” the European Union will have to be at the negotiating table, even recognizing that for this the Europeans must first agree on their common position.
Zelensky asks NATO for clarity
For his part, the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, has asked NATO this Friday to “say openly” whether the former Soviet republic will join the military bloc despite Russia’s refusal. “We want something concrete, we have to have something,” said the Ukrainian president during a press conference with foreign media in Kiev.
“To tell us openly that we will never be there. Some may say so and some may not. They (representatives of the Atlantic Alliance) come here and say that they support Ukraine joining NATO. But we do not need to talk about the future, we have many challenges in the present,” he said.
According to Zelensky, the country fully trusts its Army, which is “at the level of the Armed Forces of NATO countries.” “It is a serious Army, and if we talk about the level of NATO, of course, we are not weaker,” he assured.
To dissuade Moscow from a possible aggression against Ukraine, Zelensky has asked the West for “preventive sanctions”. “Why do you need sanctions “after” (an invasion)? Many countries talk about things that can be done preventively,” he said.
However, the Ukrainian leader has revealed that Kiev is conducting negotiations on an alliance not only with NATO, but also with other countries. “If other countries are willing to offer us security, defense or another alliance to provide solid assistance in difficult times, Ukraine is ready for such agreements. We are already working on it.”