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German leader says must keep talking to Putin

BERLIN (AP) – German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Friday that it’s “absolutely necessary” for some leaders to talk directly to Russian President Vladimir Putin amid efforts to end the war in Ukraine, and he and France’s president will continue to do so.

Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron have held several telephone conversations with Putin, separately and together, since Russia’s invasion began on February 24. Those contacts have drawn some criticism – including from Poland’s president, who said recently that they achieve nothing and serve only to legitimise the Russian leader.

“It is absolutely necessary to speak to Putin, and I will continue to do so – as the French president will also,” Scholz told German news agency dpa in an English-language video interview a day after he, Macron and the leaders of Italy and Romania held talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv.

“There are some countries needed, and some leaders needed, that speak to him – and it is necessary that they are clear,” Scholz told dpa.

“When I speak to Putin I say, for instance, the same things I said to you,” he added.

“Please understand that there will be no dictate(d) peace, and if you really believe that you will rob some land and then hope that the times will change and all the things will become normal again, this is a mistake.”

He said his message is that “you have to withdraw your troops and you have to find an agreement with Ukraine which is acceptable and right for the people of Ukraine”.

During Thursday’s visit to Kyiv, Scholz and his fellow leaders pledged support for Ukraine’s candidacy eventually to join the European Union.