French President Emmanuel Macron will travel to Moscow and Kiev next week to try to prevent Russian President Vladimir Putin from invading Ukraine and find a diplomatic outlet for rising tensions.
The visit on Monday and Tuesday comes after the United States accused the Kremlin on Thursday of an elaborate conspiracy to engineer an attack by Ukrainian forces that Russia could use as a pretext for military action. The United States has not provided detailed information to support the claims.
While France is a key player in NATO and is moving troops into Romania as part of the alliance's preparation for a possible Russian move, Macron is also actively pushing for dialogue with Putin and has spoken with him on numerous occasions. occasions in recent weeks. The two will have a one-on-one meeting on Monday, Macron's office said on Friday.
Macron follows the French tradition of following a separate path from the United States in geopolitics, trying to put his own stamp on this crisis and defend Europe's interests.
But after weeks of talks in various diplomatic formats that failed to yield any major concessions from Russia and the US, it is unclear how much of an impact his trip will have.
In a conversation with US President Joe Biden on Wednesday, Macron updated him on his diplomatic efforts. In talks with Russian and Ukrainian leaders on Thursday night, Macron's office said they discussed ways to "identify elements that could lead to de-escalation" and "conditions for a strategic balance in Europe that would allow risks on the ground to be reduced." ". they should." and ensure security on the continent."
Russia has deployed more than 100,000 troops near Ukraine's northern and eastern borders, raising concerns that Moscow could invade again as it did in 2014. Troop presence and insecurity have unsettled Ukrainians and damaged the economy of the country. country. Russian officials deny an invasion is planned.
Putin, who is due to meet Chinese President Xi Jingping in Beijing on Friday to mark the opening of the Winter Olympics, has signaled an apparent willingness to hold more talks with Washington and NATO in recent days. Some experts say that as long as Russia and the West communicate, there is reason for cautious optimism.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has also offered to mediate the Russia-Ukraine talks.
Meanwhile, US officials in Washington said a plan for a fake attack on Russian territory or Russian-speakers has been outlined in declassified intelligence shared with Ukrainian officials and European allies in recent days. It was the latest example of the Biden administration leaking intelligence findings as a tactic to stop Russia's disinformation efforts and thwart Putin's attempt to lay the groundwork for military action.
In recent weeks, the White House has said that US intelligence shows that Russia has launched a vicious social media disinformation campaign against Ukraine, sending operatives trained in explosives to carry out acts of sabotage against Ukraine itself. representatives of Russia. Britain has released intelligence findings showing that Russia plans to install a pro-Russian puppet government in Ukraine.