Moscow asked Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel this Friday to put pressure on their Ukrainian counterpart, with whom they are to meet in the afternoon, to stop the “provocations” from Kiev in the east of the country.
Volodymyr Zelensky, welcomed at midday by his French counterpart at the Elysee Palace before a trilateral videoconference with the German Chancellor, calls for increased support from Europeans in the face of the concentration of Russian troops on the borders of Ukraine. “It would be very important for us that Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel use their influence during this videoconference (…) to explain to him the possibility of a definitive cessation of all provocations” on the front, affirmed the spokesperson. of the Russian Presidency, Dmitry Peskov.
Tensions and separatism
For several weeks, clashes have been increasing between Kiev and pro-Russian separatists in Donbass (eastern Ukraine), while tens of thousands of Russian soldiers have been deployed nearby, raising fears of a large-scale military operation. The West, for their part, warned Russia against these demonstrations of force and called on Moscow to “de-escalate”.
In this context of new volatility, seven years after the annexation of Crimea by Russia and while the conflict is still not resolved in the Donbass, the Ukrainian president is loudly asking for his country’s accession to NATO and the European Union. “We cannot stay indefinitely in the EU and NATO waiting room,” Volodymyr Zelensky said in an interview with the French daily Le Figaro.
In search of living together
“If we belong to the same family, we have to live together. We cannot go out together forever, like eternal fiancés, we must legalize our relations, ”he insisted to the attention of Paris and Berlin. However, NATO membership seems very remote in view of Russia’s fierce hostility to such a scenario and the reluctance of a number of Alliance member states, including France, for fear of provoking Moscow.
As for entry into the EU, it remains just as hypothetical. “We can support Ukraine (..) but that does not mean membership, it is not a serious prospect”, noted the French Secretary of State for European Affairs Clément Beaune.
Paris and Berlin, mediators within the framework of the quadripartite dialogue with Russia and Ukraine (called “Normandy format”), for their part intend to “play their role” to safeguard the ceasefire and relaunch the political process, explains the Elysee.
“All the work we do is to avoid escalation, to reduce tensions”, underlined the French presidency. Tensions around Ukraine are rebounding as relations have been stormy between the United States and Russia since Joe Biden arrived at the White House in January.