Kremlin takes crack at Macron after he met with Putin about Ukraine, saying Paris is 'not the leader' in NATO so they 'couldn't do any deals'

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  • The Kremlin threw cold water on Macron's claim that Putin said he wouldn't escalate the Ukraine crisis.

  • "Moscow and Paris couldn't do any deals. It's simply impossible," a Kremlin spokesperson said.

  • Western leaders have expressed grave concerns about Russia's military buildup near Ukraine.

The Kremlin on Tuesday pushed back on assertions from French President Emmanuel Macron that Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to not to escalate the situation with Ukraine. Russia suggested that Macron didn't have enough influence in NATO for Moscow to negotiate any deals with Paris.

After meeting with Putin in Moscow on Monday, Macron traveled to Kyiv to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. At a press conference in the Ukrainian capital on Tuesday, Macron said Putin told him that he "won't be initiating an escalation."

"I think it is important," Macron added.

But Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov in a phone call with reporters on Tuesday rejected the notion that Putin made any such pledges. "This is wrong in its essence. Moscow and Paris couldn't do any deals. It's simply impossible," Peskov said, per The Guardian.

"France is a leading country in the EU, France is a member of NATO, but Paris is not the leader there. In this bloc, a very different country is in charge," Peskov added. "So what deals can we talk about?"

Zelensky on Tuesday also expressed skepticism about Russia making verbal commitments to de-escalate.

"I do not really trust words. I believe that every politician can be transparent by taking concrete steps," Zelensky said during a press briefing with Macron, according to Reuters.

Russia has gathered roughly 130,000 troops on Ukraine's borders. The Kremlin claims it has no plans to invade, but has rejected calls from Western leaders to pull its troops back to reduce tensions. Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014, annexing Crimea in the process, and has since backed rebels in a war against Ukrainian forces in the eastern Donbas region. Moscow has consistently denied having a military presence in the Donbas, despite solid evidence to the contrary.

As it threatens Ukraine with the prospect of invasion, Russia has made demands for binding security guarantees from the West. Among other things, Russia has insisted that Ukraine and Georgia be blocked from ever joining NATO. The alliance and Washington have vehemently rejected this demand, underscoring that NATO's open door policy is not up for discussion.

On Monday, Putin seemingly quoted Soviet-era punk-rock lyrics about rape and necrophilia while discussing the Minsk accords — ceasefire agreements signed in 2014 and 2015 (negotiated in Minsk, Belarus) aimed at ending fighting in the Donbas.

The Minsk accords have never been fully enforced, and the conflict in eastern Ukraine has continued.

Russia and Ukraine have fundamentally different interpretations of the accords.

Critics say the agreements offer unfavorable terms to Ukraine, and would give Russia too much influence over Ukrainian politics — perhaps even veto power. Minsk grants special autonomy to separatist territories in the Donbas.

The Biden administration has characterized the Minsk accords as the path to peace, while accusing Russia of distorting the intentions of the agreements.

"With regard to Minsk, the US and Ukraine are united in believing that Minsk is the path forward to resolve the conflict in the Donbas that was created by Russia's invasion in 2014, and the best way to restore Ukraine's border, to restore its sovereignty, as well as to uphold the rights of Ukrainian citizens, including those living in the Donbas," Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters on Monday. "Russia has made good on virtually none of its obligations under Minsk."

Read the original article on Business Insider