Emmanuel Macron says Putin tells him Russia will not escalate Ukraine crisis

French President Emmanuel Macron and Russian President Vladimir Putin after their talks Monday, Feb. 7, 2022 in Moscow. (Sergei Guneyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)(AP Photo/Thibault Camus, Pool)
French President Emmanuel Macron and Russian President Vladimir Putin after their talks on Monday in Moscow. Credit: Sergei Guneyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo / Thibault Camus

France's President Emmanuel Macron has said Russia's President Vladimir Putin told him Moscow would not further escalate the Ukraine crisis.

President Macron met with the Russian leader on Monday. The following day, the Kremlin denied reports that the French leader and Putin struck a deal on de-escalating the crisis.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that "in the current situation, Moscow and Paris can't be reaching any deals."

On a visit to Kyiv, Mr Macron said it would take time to find a diplomatic solution to the rising tensions, which represent the biggest security crisis between Russia and the West since the Cold War.

French President Emmanuel Macron with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy after talks in Kyiv, Ukraine on Tuesday Credit: AP/Efrem Lukatsky

President Macron met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Tuesday amid mounting fears of a Russian invasion.

Moscow has massed over 100,000 troops near Ukraine's borders, but insists it has no plans to attack.

The Kremlin wants guarantees from the West that NATO will not accept Ukraine and other former Soviet nations as members, that it halt weapon deployments there and roll back its forces from Eastern Europe — demands the US and NATO reject as nonstarters.

At a news conference after meeting Zelenskyy, Macron said Putin told him during their more than five-hour session Monday that “he won’t be initiating an escalation. I think it is important.”

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According to the French president, Putin also said there won’t be any Russian “permanent (military) base” or “deployment” in Belarus, where Russia had sent a large number of troops for war games.

President Zelenskyy said he would welcome concrete steps from Putin for de-escalation, adding he didn’t “trust words in general.”

President Macron also sought to temper expectations.

“Let’s not be naive,” he said. "Since the beginning of the crisis, France hasn’t been inclined to exaggerate, but at the same time, I don’t believe this crisis can be settled in a few hours, through discussions”

President Zelenskyy called his talks with Macron “very fruitful.”

“We have a common view with President Macron on threats and challenges to the security of Ukraine, of the whole of Europe, of the world in general,” President Zelenskyy said.

It comes as Boris Johnson said the UK stands “shoulder to shoulder” with Lithuania and its other Nato allies amid rising tensions between Russia and Ukraine.

Mr Johnson made the comments at a meeting with Ingrida Simonyte, the Prime Minister of Lithuania, in Downing Street on Tuesday.

“We are closer than ever before, I think it’s fair to say. We see eye to eye on a lot of very important matters,” he said.

Ms Simonyte said this is “crucial” because “the times are, so to say, not the calmest”, to which Mr Johnson agreed: “They’re not calm.”

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The Lithuanian PM added: “It’s very to good to know that, you know, we have a very strong partner and friend and at least that we are together, like Nato and others, and I think it’s extremely good what you are doing on Ukraine.”

Mr Johnson responded: “We’re shoulder to shoulder with you and all our Nato allies and we want to make clear that we support you… we support you when it comes to the immigration issues in Belarus and all the questions that we’re now facing.”

A Downing Street spokesperson said Mr Johnson and Ms Simonyte went on to discuss “the UK’s unwavering support for Lithuania and the two nations’ close and historic ties”.

They said the pair agreed that any invasion by Russia into Ukraine would be a “disastrous mistake”, and “shared their concern at the severe cost to the Russian people and their economy should President Putin move his troops over Ukraine’s border”.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks with Lithuania's Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte at Downing Street in London on Tuesday. Credit: Tom Nicholson via AP

“The leaders also discussed their close diplomatic relations and agreed to further strengthen trade ties, including in offshore renewable energy and fintech,” the spokesperson added.

Later in the day, No 10 said Mr Johnson spoke to Mark Rutte, the Dutch Prime Minister, about “the concerning situation on Ukraine’s border”.

“Both leaders agreed the need for de-escalation and the Prime Minister said the UK remained seriously concerned at Russia’s intent towards Ukraine,” a Downing Street spokesperson said.

“They agreed on the need for Western unity in the face of Russian aggression, and the importance of preparing severe economic sanctions to deter Russia from crossing the border into Ukraine.”