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EU foreign minister visits front line with pro-Russian separatists

The head of European diplomacy Josep Borrell will travel from Tuesday to Thursday in Ukraine, in particular on the front line with the pro-Russian separatists, to express the support of the EU for the “territorial integrity” of this country, announced Monday the Commission.

For several weeks, Westerners have been worried about the deployment of 100,000 Russian troops on the eastern border of Ukraine and accuse Moscow of threatening this country with a new invasion, after that of Crimea in 2014.

Borrell in the East then in Kiev

Mr. Borrell, accompanied by Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kouleba, will first travel to the east of the country, on the “line of contact” between the area controlled by Kiev and that held by the pro-Russian separatists, engaged in a conflict which has killed more than 13,000 people since 2014.

He will then go to Kiev to meet other Ukrainian officials, according to a Commission statement. The trip “underlines the EU’s firm support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine at a time when the country is faced with military build-up and hybrid actions from Russia,” said the EU executive. .

Diplomatic efforts

Diplomatic efforts to try to defuse this crisis continued on Monday. The head of American diplomacy Antony Blinken notably spoke on the phone with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu, whose country is an ally of the United States within NATO. They discussed “the importance of continued coordination regarding Russia’s escalation threat in Ukraine,” according to a statement from the US State Department.

This call comes the day after a phone call between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who maintain partnership relations and spoke of the demands presented by Moscow to the Atlantic Alliance.

Talks planned between Russians and Americans

Antony Blinken also spoke with the foreign ministers of the “Bucharest group of nine”, which includes the European countries constituting the “eastern flank” of NATO, at the gates of Russia (Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary , Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia). They evoked “the need for a united and resolute position” of NATO in matters of “collective defense of the Allies”, which is “ready” to be drawn in case of need, according to American diplomacy.

Talks between Russia and the United States are due to take place on Ukraine on January 9 and 10 in Geneva, followed on January 12 by a Russia-NATO meeting, then on January 13 by a meeting within the framework of the ‘OSCE. The EU is worried about being sidelined in these talks, and Josep Borrell has repeatedly insisted that “any discussion on Europe’s security be held in coordination and with the participation of the EU”. Antony Blinken told the “Bucharest Nine” that Washington would continue to coordinate “closely” with “all” of its transatlantic allies.

Biden ready to fight back

For Moscow, Russia’s security requires the prohibition of any NATO expansion, perceived as an existential threat, and the end of Western military activities near Russian borders, an area it considers to fall within its area. influence.

Westerners reject some Russian requests as unacceptable. US President Joe Biden assured Sunday that the United States and its allies “will respond vigorously” if Russia invades Ukraine.

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