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Macron to visit Russia, Ukraine in mediation trip

PARIS (AP) – French President Emmanuel Macron will head to Moscow and Kyiv next week as part of his push to try to deter Russian President Vladimir Putin from launching an invasion of Ukraine and find a diplomatic way out of the growing tensions.

The visit on Monday and Tuesday comes after the United States (US) accused the Kremlin on Thursday of an elaborate plot to fabricate an attack by Ukrainian forces that Russia could use as a pretext to take military action. The US has not provided detailed information backing up the claims.

While France is a major player in NATO and is moving troops to Romania as part of the alliance’s preparation for possible Russian action, Macron has also been actively pushing for dialogue with Putin and has spoken to him several times in recent weeks. The two will hold a one-on-one meeting on Monday, Macron’s office said yesterday.

Macron is following a French tradition of striking a separate path from the US in geopolitics, as well as trying to make his own mark on this crisis and defend Europe’s interests.

But after weeks of talks in various diplomatic formats have led to no major concessions by Russia and the US, it’s unclear how much impact his trip will have.

French President Emmanuel Macron. PHOTO: AFP

In a call on Wednesday with US President Joe Biden, Macron filled him in on his diplomatic efforts. In talks with the Russian and Ukrainian leaders on Thursday night, Macron’s office said they discussed ways to “identify elements that could lead to de-escalation,” and “conditions for strategic balance in Europe, which should allow for the reduction of risks on the ground and guarantee security on the continent”.

Russia has amassed more than 100,000 troops near Ukraine’s northern and eastern borders, raising concern that Moscow might invade again, as it did in 2014. The troop presence and uncertainty have unnerved Ukrainians and hurt the country’s economy.

Russian officials deny that an invasion is planned.