Russian President Vladimir Putin “clarified” proposals put forward in Russia’s parliament to recognize self-declared republics in the non-government-controlled parts of Ukraine’s east, French President Emmanuel Macron said during a press briefing after his talks in Moscow on Feb. 7.
According to Macron, the conversation primarily revolved on the Minsk agreements, a peace process laid out between the Ukrainian and Russian sides. However, the Minsk agreements do not have any provision for the independence of the self-declared republics in parts of Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts, but rather, their re-integration into Ukraine.
Macron said he had received assurances that bills put forward in the Russian parliament on recognizing the self-declared republics would not be approved if this was in breach of the Minsk agreements.
Macron added that he would be flying to Kyiv on Feb. 8 to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
“And together with (German Chancellor) Olaf Scholz we’re working in the Normandy Format (a diplomatic framework between Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany) to fully implement the Minsk Protocol provisions and resolve the Donbas conflict,” the French leader said.
He urged both sides to continue taking concrete steps as outlined in the Minsk Protocol, “to their full extent.” The peace process is said by both Russian and Ukrainian diplomats to have “completely stalled.” The Ukrainian side notes that Russia’s insistence that several of the provisions move forward without the dissolution of non-government armed groups on the territory is a red line for Kyiv.
The meeting between the French and Russian leaders lasted for over five hours. According to Macron, the visit and dialogue was focused on dealing with the current European security crisis, prompted by Moscow amassing over 130,000 troops around Ukraine’s borders.
Putin said that “redeployment of troops within Russia is being portrayed as an invasion threat to Ukraine,” and repeated Moscow’s line that the country’s internal troop movements are its own affair.
At the same time, Moscow has repeatedly accused Ukraine of planning “provocations,” and alleged that Kyiv plans to regain control of the occupied territories by military means. The Kremlin has failed to back up any of its allegations with evidence, however.
Russian troops have also been deployed to Belarus, as part of previously unscheduled military exercises. However, Russian equipment has been spotted along the Ukrainian-Belarusian border, far from the zone where the exercises are supposed to take place.