Russia is on the menu when Macron holds talks with Ukraine’s Zelensky

On Friday, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will hold talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a demonstration in support of the former Soviet state, which fears a Russian invasion.

The talks come as a massive build-up of Russian troops along the border with Ukraine has given rise to new tensions in eastern Ukraine, where government forces have been fighting Russian separatists since 2014.

Macron will receive Zelensky for lunch in Paris and both men will then talk to Chancellor Angela Merkel via video link, the French presidency said on Thursday.

“Ukraine’s sovereignty is under threat,” Macron’s office said, adding: “All our work is aimed at avoiding escalation and weakening tensions.”

Zelensky’s meeting with the leaders of France and Germany, who have been mediators in the conflict since 2015, comes when Ukraine accuses Russia of threatening to destroy it.

The talks aim to lay the groundwork for a meeting in the so-called “Normandy” format, which involves the leaders of France, Germany, Ukraine and Russia and has not taken place since December 2019.

Ukraine and Russia have been blamed for a sharp rise in violence in the conflict in eastern Ukraine, where Ukrainian troops have been fighting Russian-backed forces in a conflict that Kiev says has killed 14,000 people since 2014.

Ukraine and its Western allies have accused Russia of “provocative” build-up of troops near the country’s eastern border and annexed Crimea.

Friday’s talks come amid growing tensions between the United States and Russia, with the Biden administration on Thursday announcing the deportation of ten Russian diplomats and the imposition of sanctions on dozens of people and companies, holding the Kremlin responsible for interfering in last year’s presidential election and hacking of federal agencies.

“Threatening Ukraine openly”

On Thursday, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told a news conference with former Soviet counterparts Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania that Russia “openly threatened Ukraine with war and the destruction of the Ukrainian state” and added “the red line of Ukraine is the state border. crossing the red line, it must be affected. “

In recent weeks, Moscow has gathered tens of thousands of troops along Ukraine’s northern and eastern borders and on the Crimean peninsula, which Moscow annexed in 2014.

Russia’s Defense Ministry says the troops are only responding to “threatening” actions by the NATO alliance and participating in military exercises.

Ukraine, where a pro-Kremlin president was sacked in a popular uprising in 2014, has made clear its ambition to join NATO.

Thursday’s visit to Kiev by senior diplomats from the Baltic states is the latest demonstration of support from European countries and the United States, which has warned of “consequences” if Russia acts “aggressively” towards Ukraine.

Test for Biden

On Wednesday, Biden and Merkel called on Russia to reduce its border deployment.

A day earlier, Biden had proposed a summit with Putin – an offer that Russia is still considering.

Some observers have tossed the escalation as an attempt by both Moscow and Kiev to test the new US president to see how far Biden is willing to go to defend Washington’s allies and confront Russia.

Biden took up hackles in Russia last month by agreeing to a description of Putin as a “murderer.”

The Russian squad is in the middle of a battle in the fighting since the beginning of the year in eastern Ukraine, which Moscow and Kiev have been about.

At least 28 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed in the breakaway regions of Donetsk and Lugansk since early January, compared to 50 in 2020.

The separatists have said that more than 20 of their warriors have been killed as early as 2021.

Moscow accuses Kiev of planning an offensive against the separatists and warned that it could intervene in the event of an attack on their strongholds, where many residents have issued Russian passports.

The latest fighting has shattered a ceasefire that was mediated in July last year and which had calmed the region relatively calm after years of clashes that have cost about 13,000 lives.

( Jowharwith AFP and REUTERS)

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