KYIV (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin promised not to carry out new military initiatives near Ukraine for the time being as a precursor to possible de-escalation, a French official said after Putin had talks with France’s Emmanuel Macron.
The Russian leader, according to the French official, also agreed that troops taking part in a military exercise on Belarusian territory near Ukraine’s borders would be pulled back once those war games are over.
Putin himself did not mention such concessions when he spoke to the media after his six hours of talks with Macron in the Kremlin late on Monday. Reuters was not able to independently confirm Russia had made such commitments.
The French official was speaking to reporters on condition of anonymity.
Macron is the top Western leader to meet Putin since Moscow began massing troops near Ukraine. Western states say they fear Russia is preparing to invade; Moscow denies any such intention but says it could take unspecified military action unless a series of security demands are met.
The French official said that during the talks Macron had agreed to “open dialogue on strategic questions,” but there were no details on what that dialogue might involve.
Putin has demanded changes to security arrangements in Europe, including a promise that NATO will never admit Ukraine, that missiles will never be deployed near Russia’s borders and that the Western alliance will scale back its infrastructure.
The French official said agreement was also reached during the talks to ramp up diplomacy under the so-called Normandy Format, in which France and Germany have acted as facilitators in talks involving Russia and Ukraine.
(Reporting by Michel Rose; Writing by Christian Lowe)