US still believes Russian military convoy outside Kiev ‘stuck’, says senior US defense official

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Russian President Vladimir Putin told his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron that he would continue military operations in Ukraine during a 90-minute call initiated by Putin, an Elysee Palace source told reporters on Thursday during a briefing.

“This conversation is unfortunately an opportunity to hear that President Putin will continue military interventions and go all the way,” according to the source from the Élysée.
“[The call] allowed the President of the Republic to come back to the disagreements that we have with Russia, to plead for the diplomatic alternative to military operations, to tell the truth to President Putin on the way in which we envisage his war in Ukraine but also on the consequences it will have for Russia in the long term,” the source continued.

The Élysée source said the “worst is yet to come” in Ukraine following Macron’s phone call with Putin.

“Without making any predictions, we should expect the worst. The (French) president also said that yesterday. There is nothing in what Putin said today that should reassure us,” the source said. .

Meanwhile, Russia’s state news agency TASS said Putin and Macron had “a frank exchange of views on the situation around Ukraine,” the Kremlin’s press service said Thursday.

A report by Russian state news agency RIA-Novosti’s Kremlin pool said the discussion was difficult, with Putin alleging Ukraine carried out a “seven-year sabotage” of the Minsk agreements, a process of peace definitively interrupted by the Russian government. in its recent recognition of two breakaway republics in eastern Ukraine.

The two parties have agreed to keep the door to dialogue open, according to both the Russians and the French.

The RIA report added that Putin had warned the West that if the Russian-Ukrainian negotiations dragged on, then Moscow would have new demands on Kiev, and that the tasks of the “special military operation” – the euphemism of Russia for its war in Ukraine – would be carried out in any case.

According to the Elysee source, Putin also denied bombing Kyiv and warned that the situation would get worse, but that was Ukraine’s fault.

In response, Macron warned Putin he was making a huge mistake, the source said. Macron reiterated that Moscow’s demands to neutralize and disarm Ukraine are unacceptable and that the responsibility for this conflict lies entirely with Putin.

But Macron also said there was still time for diplomacy and dialogue to address Russia’s concerns and include Russia’s interests; however, the discussion cannot take place “under Russian control” and had to be organized by international partners, according to the source.

Macron also asked Putin to respect the Ukrainian president, his family, loved ones, state officials and elected officials, the source said.

After his call with Putin, Macron spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

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