France, Germany and Ukraine have called for Russia to reverse a recent build-up of military forces along the Ukrainian border to ease rising tensions in the region, Financial Times says.
After Zelensky met France’s President Emmanuel Macron for lunch at the Elysée Palace and joined him in a video conference on the crisis with Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said the three leaders "shared their concern about the increase in Russian troops on the border with Ukraine and in the illegally annexed Crimea" and "demanded a reduction in the troop reinforcements, to de-escalate the situation".
Zelensky said he briefed the French and German leaders on the increased hostilities in eastern Ukraine and said he wanted a new round of four-way talks to include Russia’s leader Vladimir Putin.
"Thirty soldiers have been killed this year. We need to move very quickly now from words to direct steps" towards implementing the Minsk peace agreements from 2015, he said.
Zelensky, under domestic pressure to stand up to Moscow and end encroachments of its territory, is seeking early membership of the EU and Nato, but European officials and analysts say both are distant prospects at best. Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Ukraine’s former prime minister, has urged the west to increase sanctions on Russia and increase its military support for Ukraine.
"Today Ukraine is completely encircled with an aggressive Russian military," he said on Friday during an online discussion by the Kyiv Security Forum which he chairs. He called for "real deliverables, real acts and bold acts in order to stop the aggression of Putin".
"We need supply of lethal weapons, military assistance to make the Ukrainian military stronger and durable to defend Ukraine, to stop Putin and to protect Europe," Yatsenyuk added.