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French President Emmanuel Macron and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoken by phone Sunday and agreed to work to set up a meeting within hours to discuss a possible ceasefire in Ukraine, the Elysee Palace said in a statement.
The call came as heightened tensions added to ongoing violence between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed separatists in the east of the country, where shelling in recent days has left two people dead and five injured. Ukrainian soldiers, according to the New York Times.
Shortly after his call with Putin, Macron met with the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who pledged to respect any eventual ceasefire.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine said in a press release earlier on Sunday, Russian-backed separatists continued to fire mortars along the Luhansk-Shchastya humanitarian corridor in Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region that borders Russia.
Meanwhile, Russian troops remain stationed on the border, some of whom took part in live-fire drills on Saturday that Russian President Vladimir Putin personally supervised from Moscow. The Kremlin continues to insist that it has no intention of invading Ukraine.
US officials push for diplomacy but prepare for war
Ukraine’s allies, including the United States, have continued to question Moscow’s assurances that it has no plans to invade Ukraine. President Biden has said he is confident Russia will invade his neighbour.
Biden was to convene a meeting of the National Security Council on Sunday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki announced a day earlier.
Vice President Kamala Harris, speaking to reporters on Sunday after her appearance at the Munich Security Conference, warned of the risk of a war breaking out in Europe – which could be the biggest conflict in this type on the continent since the Second World War.
“Let’s really take a moment to understand the importance of what we’re talking about. It’s been over 70 years, and in those 70 years, as I mentioned yesterday, there has been peace and security,” said Harris. “We are talking about the real possibility of war in Europe.”
Harris said the United States and its allies were united in their plan to impose strong sanctions on Russia if it were to invade Ukraine, although she said the administration still held out hope of a diplomatic solution to the crisis.
Russian state media accuses Ukrainian forces of killing civilians, as experts worry about false flags
Amid the frantic search for a diplomatic breakthrough, Western pundits and leaders remained nervous about the prospect that Russia could use disinformation – such as a false claim that Ukraine was planning a military offensive – to justify a invasion.
Against this backdrop, Ukrainian officials have sought to refute claims aired in Russian state media over the weekend about the Ukrainian military’s use of force. However as the The Washington Post reportedno evidence supported these claims.
A article in the Russian newspaper Pravda said the Ukrainian army killed two civilians in Luhansk and that several of its shells fell in Russia’s Rostov region.
Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister, denied that the country was responsible for such military action.
“We resolutely refute all accusations of alleged Ukrainian shells falling on Russian territory,” Kuleba said. said saturday. “Ukraine has never opened such fire. We call for an immediate and impartial international investigation into the incidents reported by the Russian media.”
Russian state media also repeated separatists’ claims that Ukraine was expand its military presence ahead of a planned offensive in the east of the country, even as senior Ukrainian officials continue to plead for peace. The head of the Donetsk rebel government has called for a mass evacuation to Russia, though Ukrainian officials and journalists say the claim of an imminent Ukrainian attack is a lie.