Macron heads to Moscow hoping for Ukraine tensions breakthrough as Russia looks poised to invade

ITV News Correspondent Rachel Younger reports from Moscow on the latest developments

French President Emmanuel Macron held talks in Moscow on Monday, in the hope of to de-escalating the tense situation in Ukraine.

An estimated 100,000 Russian troops have been massed near the Ukrainian border for months, fuelling speculation of a complete invasion of the country.

The West has reacted with anger to the move, promising severe sanctions if any Russian soldier enters Ukraine.

In response, the US has deployed more troops to eastern European Nato member countries, a move that has infuriated Russia who is demanding the alliance retreat from its borders.

France has also offered to send troops to Romania as part of Nato, which has regained a sense of unity in recent weeks.

The UK has also made similar pledges, but no concrete details have been revealed yet.

What has come from the latest round of diplomacy? ITV News Correspondent Rachel Younger explains

Mr Macron, who met in the Kremlin with Russian President Vladimir Putin before visiting Ukraine on Tuesday, said: "Dialogue is necessary because that’s the only thing that will help, in my views, to build a context of a security and stability on the European continent".

He added that he's ready to "start building an effective response."

Before heading to Moscow, Mr Macron had a phone call on Sunday with US President Joe Biden.

They discussed “ongoing diplomatic and deterrence efforts in response to Russia’s continued military build-up on Ukraine’s borders, and affirmed their support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the White House said in a statement.

Ukraine has been preparing its defences. Credit: AP

France is seen as having generally friendlier relations with Russia than the US, and Mr Macron believes he can achieve a breakthrough where others have not been able to.

In an interview with the French newspaper Journal du Dimanche on Sunday, Mr Macron said: "The geopolitical objective of Russia today is clearly not Ukraine, but to clarify the rules of cohabitation with Nato and the EU."

He also said the sovereignty of Ukraine was not up for discussion.

Mr Macron was one of the key architects of the 2015 peace deal for eastern Ukraine in a bid to end the hostilities between Ukrainian forces and Russia-backed separatists that erupted the previous year following the Russian annexation of the Crimean Peninsula.The agreement signed in the Belarusian capital, Minsk, helped stop large-scale fighting, but efforts at a political settlement have stalled and frequent skirmishes have continued along the tense line of contact in the industrial area of Donbas, in the east.

The Minsk deal was seen as a betrayal of national interests by many in Ukraine and its implementation has stalled.

President Putin has successfully managed to draw the attention of all of the west's leaders Credit: AP

Amid the latest tensions, Ukrainian authorities have strongly warned the West against pressuring Ukraine to implement the agreement, which would give amnesty to the rebels and grant their regions a large amount of autonomy.

Despite Mr Macron's visit there seems to be little hope of ending the crisis soon, with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz set to meet with Mr Biden on Monday for talks expected to focus on the Ukrainian standoff.

Mr Scholz is set to travel to Kyiv and Moscow next week.

Russia's actions have mostly unified Nato nations in their response, further alienating Moscow from the west.

But Russia has been keen to show it has friends elsewhere, last week Mr Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping sought to reaffirm their close ties at the opening of the Beijing Winter Olympics.

In a change of Chinese policy, Beijing signed a joint statement with Russia saying Ukraine must not be allowed to join Nato - one of Russia's central demands to defuse tensions.