Putin Points to NATO Effort to Push Kiev Into Military Solution in Donbass During Call With Macron

© Sputnik / Mikhail Klimentiev / Go to the mediabankPutin, Macron Hold Video Conference to Discuss Security and International Issues
Putin, Macron Hold Video Conference to Discuss Security and International Issues  - Sputnik International, 1920, 20.02.2022
The Donbass has seen a dramatic escalation of military activity in recent days, with local militias and Kiev forces accusing one another of back-and-forth mortar and artillery attacks. On Friday, the breakaways announced a general mobilisation and organized the evacuation of civilians to neighbouring Russia amid fears of an all-out assault by Kiev.
Russian President Vladimir Putin brought up NATO's efforts to pump Ukraine up with arms and encourage Kiev to try to resolve the conflict in Donbass by force during Sunday's conversation with French President Emmanuel Macron, according to a Kremlin readout.

"Serious concern was expressed over the sharp deterioration of the situation on the line of contact in the Donbass. The Russian president noted that provocations by the Ukrainian security forces are the cause of the escalation. Attention was drawn to ongoing effort by NATO countries to pump Ukraine full of modern weapons and ammunition, which is pushing Kiev toward a military solution to the so-called Donbass problem," the Kremlin said.

"As a result, civilians from the Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics suffer, and have been forced to evacuate to Russia to escape the intensifying shelling," the readout added.

Putin was said to have reiterated to his French counterpart that Kiev was "only imitating" the peace negotiations progress, while in practice "stubbornly refusing" to implement the Minsk Agreements and the those reached in the Normandy Format of talks (which includes Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany).

"Taking into account the acuteness of the current state of affairs, the presidents considered it expedient to intensify the search for solutions through diplomatic means through foreign ministries and political advisors to the leaders of the countries of the Normandy Format. These contacts are designed to help restore the ceasefire and ensure progress in resolving the conflict around Donbass," the Kremlin readout stated.
Russia's security concerns vis-a-vis NATO were also brought up, according to the Kremlin, with Putin said to have "reiterated the need for the United States and NATO to take Russia's demands for security guarantees seriously and to respond to them in a specific and to the point manner."
An employee with the Joint Centre for Control and Coordination on the ceasefire regime (JCCC) mission, Lugansk People's Republic  - Sputnik International, 1920, 20.02.2022
LIVE UPDATES: Kiev Preparing Offensive Along Entire Contact Line Territory, LPR Says

France Sets Sights on 'New European Security Order'

The Elysee Palace issued its own statement following Sunday's phone call, saying that Putin and Macron had agreed to search for a diplomatic solution to the Ukraine crisis.
The presidents agreed on several measures, according to the Elysee, including: 1) the resumption of work in the framework of the Normandy format, 2) a meeting of the Trilateral Contact Group later Sunday to secure a ceasefire in the Donbass (that group includes Russia, Ukraine and the OSCE), 3) commitment to a diplomatic solution to the Donbass crisis via "intense diplomatic work carried out in the coming days and weeks," including a meeting between Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian in Paris, 4) a firm commitment by Russia and France to carry out actions to "avoid escalation, reduce risks, and preserve peace."

"This diplomatic work should make it possible to make progress on the basis of the latest exchanges involving all stakeholders (the Europeans, their allies, Russia and Ukraine) in order to achieve, if the conditions are met, a meeting at the highest level to define a new order of peace and security in Europe," the Elysee readout said.

Sunday's telephone call was initiated by the French side and lasted 105 minutes, according to the Elysee. The Putin-Macron call was followed up by a half-hour conversation between the French president and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. After that phone call, Zelensky tweeted his support for a meeting of the Trilateral Contact Group and an "immediate" ceasefire in the Donbass.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks with US President Joe Biden over the telephone in his office in Kiev, Ukraine, Thursday, 9 December 2021. - Sputnik International, 1920, 20.02.2022
Ukraine's President Says He 'Supports' Immediate Ceasefire in Donbass
The out-of-the-blue flareup of fighting in the Donbass began on Thursday, just a day after the "16 February Russian invasion of Ukraine" predicted by Western officials and media failed to materialise. Officials in the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk republics reported on sniper attacks, artillery and mortar fire and the concentration of Ukrainian troops on the line of contact. Multiple troops and civilians have been reported killed or injured on both sides.
Russia on Friday called on Ukraine to immediately implement the Minsk Agreements - the comprehensive 2015 peace deal aimed at bringing the nearly eight-year-old war in the Donbass to an end.
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