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Kremlin pours cold water on Ukraine peace summit plan

KYIV (AFP) – The Kremlin warned yesterday there are no concrete plans for a summit between the Russian and United States (US) leaders, as diplomats scrambled to head off the threat of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The idea of a meeting between presidents Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden has been championed by France and cautiously welcomed by Ukraine as a way to avert a catastrophic war in Europe.

But Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “It’s premature to talk about any specific plans for organising any kind of summits” adding that no “concrete plans” had been put in place.

France’s President Emmanuel Macron called Putin on Sunday and afterwards his office said that both the Russian and Biden were open to the idea.

The summit would go ahead, however, only “on the condition that Russia does not invade Ukraine”.

“There is a diplomatic hope,” France’s minister for European affairs Clement Beaune told
LCI television.

A boy plays with a weapon as an instructor shows an assault rifle while training members of a Ukrainian far-right group in Kyiv. PHOTO: AP

“If there is still a chance to avoid war, to avoid a confrontation and build a political and diplomatic solution, then we need to take it,” he said.

But in Washington, a senior US administration official told AFP: “Timing to be determined. Format to be determined. So it’s all completely notional.”

Visiting Brussels, Ukraine’s foreign minister welcomed the French effort.

“We believe that every effort aimed a diplomatic solution is worth trying,” Dmytro Kuleba said ahead of a meeting with European Union (EU) counterparts.

“We hope that the two presidents will walk out from the room with an agreement about Russia withdrawing its forces from Ukraine,” he said.

Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said there was no sign of Russian forces withdrawing from the border, and that Moscow-backed rebels continue to shell Ukrainian positions.

“Since the beginning of this day, as of 9am, 14 attacks have already been recorded, 13 of them from weapons prohibited by the Minsk agreements,” he told reporters in Kyiv. “One of our soldiers was wounded,” he said.

Russia annexed the Ukrainian region of Crimea in 2014 and Moscow-backed separatists hold an enclave in the eastern distracts of Lugansk and Donetsk.

In recent weeks, according to US intelligence, Moscow has massed more than 150,000 troops and sailors around Ukraine’s borders in Belarus, Russia, Crimea and the Black Sea.

Biden has said that US intelligence believes that Putin has made a decision to invade Ukraine and that commanders are readying units to attack within days.

Russia has long denied this, but state media accuse Kyiv of preparing a murderous assault against the rebel enclave, and has started evacuating civilians from the area.

Kyiv and Washington accuse the Russians of plotting a “false flag” operation to fake Ukrainian atrocities in order to serve as a pretext for an all out assault.

Meanwhile, Ukraine and Russia continue to blame each other for a spike in shellings on the front line separating Kyiv’s forces from Moscow-backed separatists.


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