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French President Emmanuel Macron is concluding his two-day diplomatic spree with what seems to be little result.
The Minsk Agreements are the only way to stop the war in Ukraine and halt Russia's ongoing military build up, Macron said during his joint press conference with President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv on Feb. 8.
Macron didn't provide any specifics on how Ukraine should re-launch the 2015 agreement, with 140,000 Russian troops stationed near Ukraine's frontiers.
The second Minsk Agreements were signed after a successful Russian military offensive in February 2015, which forced Ukraine to confirm a document set to grant Russian-occupied Donbas a wide autonomy in return for Kyiv receiving control over its side of the border with Russia.
Read More: Explainer: Why Russia wants autonomy for occupied Donbas (and why Ukraine doesn’t)
Macron said Putin and Zelensky have both committed to honoring the agreement, stalled since the day it was signed.
A day prior, Macron held a five-hour-long meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow to discuss the ongoing Russian escalation.
According to Macron, he gave Russia “concrete security guarantees,” without disclosing them. "Putin told me he wouldn't be the cause of an escalation," Macron said in Kyiv.
Macron also said the Kremlin told him it wouldn’t establish military bases in Belarus, nor deploy “sensitive equipment,” without giving details on this equipment. Russia stepped up deployments in Belarus in recent days and is expected to have 30,000 troops stationed in Belarus for joint military exercises from Feb. 10 to Feb. 20.
Yet, he added that resolving the ongoing crisis can take months following high-level talks with Kyiv and Moscow.
Meanwhile, Putin’s spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, denied that the Kremlin had made a deal with Macron to de-escalate and made it clear that Russia isn't interested in French guarantees.
“This is wrong in its essence. Moscow and Paris couldn’t do any deals. It’s simply impossible,” Peskov told the Guardian.
“France is a member of the EU, France is a member of NATO, but Paris is not the leader there," Peskov said. "In this bloc, a very different country is in charge. So what deals can we talk about (with Macron)?”
Peskov also said that Russian troops would exit Belarus, yet without specifying a date.
French diplomatic effort was further strained by Putin's vulgar rhetoric towards Kyiv during his joint press conference with Macron.
“You may like it or not, but you'll have to deal with it, beauty,” Putin said on Feb. 7 in response to a question about the Minsk Agreements. The vulgar saying has long been associated with sexism and most recently with rape.
Responding to a question about Putin's stark, undiplomatic language, Zelensky responded in Russian by saying "it's a bit too much."
On his end, Zelensky said Ukraine needs to see actions from Macron and Putin to believe that a diplomatic solution is being planned.
“I do not really trust words, I believe that every politician can be transparent by taking concrete steps,” he said.
According to Macron, a meeting in “the near future” between the leaders of the Normandy Format countries – Ukraine, France, Germany, and Russia — will lead to a "political solution" to Russia's eight-years long war against Ukraine.
Altogether, the leaders of the Normandy Format countries – Ukraine, France, Germany, and Russia – have not met since 2019. The Normandy Format and the so-called Trilateral Contact Group are the two sets of talks launched in 2014 to find a peaceful solution to the conflict in the Donbas.
Russia’s ongoing eight-year-long war has killed over 13,000 people in eastern Ukraine.
Despite the ongoing threat coming from Russia, Macron and Zelensky had other things to discuss.
Macron added that economic security was crucial for Ukraine. France will allocate $1.4 billion in macro-financial assistance to Ukraine, he said, while the CEO of French rolling stock manufacturer Alstom signed a $900 million deal with Oleksander Kamyshin, the head of the state-run railway operator Ukrzaliznytsia for 130 new locomotives.
Zelensky also said France and Ukraine were implementing further cooperation to help build a new national air carrier in the country. “Ukraine and France continue to develop cooperation with Airbus to create a national air carrier," he said.