PARIS, France – French President Emmanuel Macron said he would seek clarification over Russia’s intentions towards Ukraine in a phone call with President Vladimir Putin on Friday amid rising fears of an attack by the Kremlin on its former Soviet republic.
Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz stressed their support for Ukraine in a joint new conference on Tuesday in Berlin and reiterated their position that Russia would pay a high price if it attacked its smaller neighbour.
The two leaders were speaking ahead of the resumption of the so – called ‘Normandy formal’ talks, with political advisers from Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany set to meet in Paris on Wednesday.
Macron said he hoped his telephone call with Putin on Friday would yield a ‘demanding dialogue and obtain clarifications’.
NATO said on Monday it was putting forces on standby and reinforcing eastern Europe with more ships and fighter jets, in what Russia denounced as Western ‘hysteria’ in response to its build – up of tens of thousands of troops on the Ukraine border.
Berlin however has refused to follow other Western countries in sending Kyiv lethal weapons to defend itself against a possible Russian invasion, prompting Scholz to defend its record on supporting Ukraine in other ways.
‘We have done a great deal to actively support economic and democratic development in Ukraine’, he said, adding that there were historical reasons for Germany’s refusal to send lethal weapons to war zone.
‘We feel responsible, for example, for ensuring that Ukraine remains a (gas) transit country’, he added. ‘Ukraine knows it can rely on Germany’.
Russia denies it plans to invade Ukraine but is demanding legally binding security guarantees from the United States and NATO. It said on Tuesday it was watching with great concern after the United States put 8,500 troops on alert to be ready to deploy to Europe in case of an escalation in the Ukraine crisis’.