May 29, 2022
French and German leaders have urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to hold “direct and serious negotiations” with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, the German Chancellor’s Office said.
French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz had a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin that lasted 80 minutes.
The German chancellor’s office said the French and German leaders “adhered to an immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of Russian troops”.
According to the Kremlin, the Russian leader said Moscow was open to resuming talks with Kyiv.
But the Kremlin statement did not mention the possibility of direct talks between Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
The Ukrainian president earlier said he was not “eager” to hold talks, but added that they may be necessary to end the conflict.
Russian and Ukrainian delegations have held multiple rounds of remote and in-person talks since Russia invaded Russia on February 24, but recent efforts have stalled.
France and Germany also urged Putin to release 2,500 Ukrainian fighters captured at the Azov steel plant in Mariupol.
The sprawling site of the Azov Steel Works, which became the last bastion of the southern port city of Mariupol, is now in ruins after being relentlessly bombed by Russian troops.
Moscow officials said earlier this month that the last few defenders defending the Azov steel plant had surrendered, while Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the Ukrainian defenders had been approved by authorities to leave.
Russia has previously said more than 900 captured Ukrainian soldiers were moved to a reopened prison in Olenivka, a village in Russian-occupied Donetsk. A few seriously injured were taken to a hospital in the town of Novoazovsk in Donetsk.
Ukraine hopes the captured soldiers will be released as part of a prisoner exchange program, but Russia has not confirmed this. Some Russian lawmakers believe the soldiers should be tried or even executed.
During the call, the French and German leaders also asked Putin to lift Russia’s blockade of the Ukrainian port of Odessa to allow grain exports.
The Kremlin said Putin said he would seek a way to allow unhindered exports of grain stranded at Black Sea ports, but demanded that Western sanctions be lifted.
Russia also warned French and German leaders against increasing arms supplies to Ukraine, saying it could further escalate instability in Ukraine.
Analysis: The war created an alternative reality
BBCUkrainian journalist Joe Inwood（Joe Inwood）
Read the Kremlin’s briefing on the call between Putin and Macron and Scholz, where Russia says it is on a peacekeeping mission in Ukraine. Its actions in Mariupol, a ruined southern port city, are all about “building a peaceful life” and “liberating” it.
This is in stark contrast to the EU briefing, which said the call focused on the treatment of the 2,500 (Ukrainian) prisoners of war who surrendered. Not only that, but how to treat the evidence from all independent observers. There are multiple credible reports of war crimes committed by Russian troops during the occupation.
Still, the fact that two of the EU’s most powerful leaders are holding direct talks with the Russian president is significant.
As Russian troops pushed toward the Donbass, calls by German and French leaders for a diplomatic solution were not supported by all Western allies, who feared it could put pressure on Ukraine to give up territory in exchange for peace.
This all comes as Moscow claims to have seized the key hub city of Lehman and continues to attack Severo-Donetsk. The industrial city has been under siege for several days, and reports have suggested that Ukraine may order a strategic withdrawal of troops from there.
It is too early to say that today’s diplomatic attempt represents a rupture in the Western alliance, but different positions are starting to emerge.
Russian ambassador to UK: Russia will not use tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine
Andrei Kelin, Russia’s ambassador to the UK, told the BBC he did not believe Russia would use tactical nuclear weapons in the war against Ukraine.
Under Russian military rules, the weapon would not be used in such conflicts, Kling said.
He said Russia has very strict rules about its use, mainly when the very existence of the country is at stake.
“This has nothing to do with current operations,” Kling said.
Putin put his nuclear forces on high alert in late February, shortly after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in what was widely seen as a warning.
Putin blamed Western and NATO aggression for the development. But British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace called it an attempt to distract from “what’s wrong with Ukraine”. Wallace said Russia was only a few days behind on the invasion plan and tried to “remind the world” that Russia has a nuclear deterrent.
Tactical nuclear weapons are nuclear weapons that can be used at relatively short ranges, as opposed to “strategic” nuclear weapons that can be launched at longer distances and cause an all-out nuclear war.
But the term “tactical nuclear weapons” still includes many types of weapons, including small bombs and missiles used on the battlefield. Russia is thought to have about 2,000 tactical nuclear weapons.
Asked by BBC reporter Clive Myrie why Russia was committing war crimes in Ukraine, the Russian ambassador to the UK also denied that Russian troops had shelled civilians and said allegations of war crimes in Butcha were ” made up”.
However, this contradicts numerous eyewitness accounts of local residents of Ukraine, who told the BBC that their relatives had been executed by Russian forces at the time.
Satellite imagery also appeared to directly contradict Moscow’s position, showing bodies in the streets nearly two weeks before the Russians left the town of Butcha.
Ukrainian troops may withdraw from Severo Donetsk
Fighting broke out in the streets of the eastern city of Severo Donetsk, the easternmost part of which remains under Ukrainian control, Ukrainian officials said.
The head of the Luhansk region, Serhiy Haidai, said that Russia has been firing heavily on Severo Donetsk, but Russian troops have suffered heavy losses.
Ukrainian officials said on Friday that two-thirds of the surrounding area of Severo Donetsk had been surrounded by Russian troops.
Ukrainian troops may withdraw from Severo Donetsk, Hayday said, noting that “in order not to be surrounded, they may have to leave.”
Ukraine’s Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal told the BBC on Saturday that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had destroyed more than 25,000 kilometers (15,000 miles) of roads, hundreds of bridges and 12 airports.
He said more than 100 educational institutions, more than 500 medical facilities and 200 factories were also damaged.
Shmikhail called for Russia to pay for the “destruction it caused” and said frozen Russian assets should be transferred to Ukraine to fund reconstruction efforts.