By Peter McLaren-Kennedy • 21 February 2022 • 9:44
Russia moves attack helicopters, tanks, and artillery to Ukraine border.
Image: Russian Armed Forces
A proposal by French President Emanuel Macron may have finally put a peaceful solution in sight as US President Joe Biden agreed in principle to hold a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss the crisis over Ukraine.
The proposal was announced by the French presidency after two phone calls between Macron and Putin, which went on for almost three hours. If the meeting goes ahead it could provide a diplomatic solution, which the world is looking for, to one of the worst security situations to face Europe in decades.
In accepting the proposal in principal the US has said that it will only meet Putin if the country does not invade the Ukraine, with a number countries still saying that an invasion is imminent.
Biden’s acceptance of the proposed summit followed a 15-minute conversation with Macron in which the French president reiterated the need for a peaceful solution.
Mr Macron’s office said details of the possible summit would be discussed during a meeting between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Thursday.
In a statement that confirmed the proposal, the White House also said Russia appeared to be “continuing preparations for a full-scale assault on Ukraine very soon”, and that the US was ready to impose “swift and severe consequences” should it happen.
Mr Putin agreed on the need to “prioritise a diplomatic solution” to the crisis, according to the French presidency. It said “intense work” would be carried out to enable a meeting “in the next few hours” aiming for a ceasefire.
Meanwhile the accusations continue with Putin blaming the Ukrainian military for the escalation of tensions and the UK and the US saying that Moscow is readying its troops for the invasion of the country.
The French presidency said both leaders hadagreed to resume talks through the Normandy Format, a group created to resolve the conflict in eastern Ukraine that includes Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that Putin’s commitments to Macron were a “welcome sign” but he reiterated his call Putin to “step back from his current threats and withdraw troops from Ukraine’s border”.
Earlier, Russia announced the extension of military drills in Belarus, where 30,000 Russian troops are deployed, that were due to end on Sunday. A Belarusian statement blamed the “deterioration of the situation” in eastern Ukraine as one reason for extending the exercises.
Speaking on CNN, Secretary Blinken said “everything we are seeing suggests that this is dead serious” and that “we are on the brink of an invasion”.
“Until the tanks are actually rolling, and the planes are flying, we will use every opportunity and every minute we have to see if diplomacy can still dissuade President Putin from carrying this forward,” he added.
According to CBS news the US has intelligence that suggests Russian commanders on the ground had received orders to proceed with an invasion and were now making specific battle plans on how to attack.
The report said an invasion would begin with a cyber-assault followed by a campaign of missile and airstrikes, before ground units attempted to take the capital Kyiv.
And an unnamed intelligence official told CNN close to 75% of Russia’s conventional forces were now poised at the Ukrainian border. The concentration of Russian forces within striking distance of Ukraine was highly unusual, the source said.
But Ukraine’s Defence Minister Alexei Reznikov said an attack “tomorrow or the day after tomorrow” was unlikely as no Russian “strike groups” had yet formed near the border.
Mr Putin has been demanding assurances that NATO will not admit Ukraine, a former Soviet state with close ties to Russia, while the Western alliance denies it poses any threat to Russia.
Efforts to find a peaceful solution continue in an effort to avert a crises that could see more people die than in the Eastern Ukraine conflict that has already seen more than 14,000 lose their lives.
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Originally from South Africa, Peter is based on the Costa Blanca and is a web reporter for the Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news.
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