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Macron in Moscow to ease Ukraine tensions

MOSCOW (AP) – French President Emmanuel Macron held talks in Moscow yesterday in a bid to help de-escalate the tense situation around Ukraine.

The concentration of an estimated 100,000 Russian troops near Ukraine has fuelled Western worries that it heralds a possible offensive, with White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan warning that Russia could invade Ukraine “any day”, triggering a conflict that would come at an “enormous human cost.”

Russia has denied any plans to attack its neighbor, but is urging the United States (US) and its allies to bar Ukraine and other ex-Soviet nations from joining NATO, halt weapons deployments there and roll back NATO forces from Eastern Europe. Washington and NATO have rejected the demands.

Macron, who is set to meet in the Kremlin with Russian President Vladimir Putin before visiting Ukraine today, said last week that his priority is “dialogue with Russia and de-escalation”.

Before heading to Moscow, Macron had a call on Sunday with US President Joe Biden. They discussed “ongoing diplomatic and deterrence efforts in response to Russia’s continued military build-up on Ukraine’s borders, and affirmed their support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”, the White House said in a statement.

The French presidency said Macron sought to ensure “good coordination” with Biden in the call. In an interview with French newspaper Journal du Dimanche published on Sunday, Macron said that “we won’t get unilateral gestures but it is indispensable to prevent a degradation of the situation before building confidence gestures and mechanisms.”

“The geopolitical objective of Russia today is clearly not Ukraine, but to clarify the rules of cohabitation with NATO and the European Union (EU),” Macron said.

A local resident throws a Molotov cocktail against a wall during an all-Ukrainian training campaign close to Kyiv, Ukraine. PHOTO: AP