Putin and Macron talk again about Ukraine and rebuff

The diplomatic push to avert a broader conflict between Russia and Ukraine continues with President Emmanuel Macron of France speaking to Russian President Vladimir V. Putin by phone on Monday for the second time. in four days.

The Kremlin said the two leaders discussed Ukraine and Putin’s demands for “security guarantees” including a legally-binding pause on NATO’s expansion to the east. They agreed to stay in touch by phone and “work in a timely manner on the possibility of holding an in-person meeting”, the Kremlin said.

The French president said in a statement that the phone call was part of “the same logic of de-escalation” as previous exchanges between the two presidents. A face-to-face meeting has not been ruled out, although nothing has been scheduled yet, the statement said.

With the retirement of German leader Angela Merkel, Mr. Macron has sought to become Europe’s primary voice in international affairs, seeing himself as a NATO ally independent of Washington and with open channels to other allies. US adversary.

In 2014, after Russia took Crimea from Ukraine and Russian-backed separatists gained control of part of eastern Ukraine, France and Germany established “Normandy format“Negotiate with Russia and Ukraine – except the United States to prevent superpower competition.

The Normandy group helped broker a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine in 2015, and has continued to meet since – including last week, when diplomats from the four countries gathered in Paris to discuss the conflict. latest crisis.

The French president said Macron and Putin welcomed “positive progress” from the Normandy format talks and that they would continue “to pursue dialogue”.

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