Putin humiliates Macron as Russia sidelines France moments before stage set for invasion

Putin recognises independence of Ukraine separatist regions

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The Russian President suggested French President Macron was out of the loop on key western developments in a speech on Monday. In an address, Mr Putin said Mr Macron had told him there had been a change in Washington’s stance on Russian security demands. However, the Russian President suggested his French counterpart did not know what the change was.

Washington, which heads the NATO alliance, has consistently rejected Mr Putin’s demand of excluding Ukraine for good or reversing NATO’s eastward expansion.

However, the US has offered talks on weapons deployments and other security issues.

Russia has opposed Ukraine’s move towards European institutions such as NATO and the EU for decades.

Over the last few months, Mr Putin has been amassing thousands of troops and military equipment around Ukraine, a move internationally condemned as an attempt at intimidation.

The Russian President has repeatedly denied planning to attack Ukraine, but the US announced it had intelligence that he has already decided to invade and is on the brink of doing so.

Russia’s core demand is for the West to guarantee Ukraine will not join NATO, a US-led defensive alliance of 30 countries.

Ukraine has repeatedly stated its intention to join NATO in the future.

The United States has supported Ukraine’s ambition to join the alliance but Russia said this would be perceived as a direct threat.

On Monday, Mr Macron attempted to give further hope of a diplomatic solution, saying Mr Putin and his US President Joe Biden had agreed in principle to meet.

The White House confirmed Mr Biden had accepted the meeting “in principle” but only “if an invasion hasn’t happened”.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said a call or meeting between the world leaders could be set up at any time, but there were no concrete plans yet.

The French President’s office and the White House said details would be worked out by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov later this week.

The statements of intention come as fears that Russia will invade Ukraine skyrocket.

On Monday, Mr Putin signed decrees recognising two controversial separatist-held regions, the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic.

Mr Blinken had previously promised “a swift and firm response” from the US and allies and partners if Russia moves to recognise Ukraine’s breakaway regions as part of Russian territory.

He said any such move would be a “gross violation of international law”.

Recognising the states as part of Russian territory has also drawn fierce condemnation from the UK and Europe.

Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission’s president, said: “The recognition of the two separatist territories in Ukraine is a blatant violation of international law, the territorial integrity of Ukraine and the Minsk agreements.

“The EU and its partners will react with unity, firmness and with determination in solidarity with Ukraine.”

Meanwhile, British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said: “President Putin’s recognition of the ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’ and ‘Luhansk People’s Republic’ as independent states shows flagrant disregard for Russia’s commitments under the Minsk agreements.

“This step represents a further attack on Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, signals the end to the Minsk process and is a violation of the UN Charter.

“It demonstrates Russia’s decision to choose a path of confrontation over dialogue.

“We will coordinate our response with Allies.

“We will not allow Russia’s violation of its international commitments to go unpunished.”

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