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Ukraine crisis: Kremlin denies French claim it promised to stop military manoeuvres near Ukrainian border

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Moscow has denied claims from Paris that it pledged not to stage new military manoeuvres near the border with Ukraine for the time being.

It follows a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron in Moscow on Monday.

The Kremlin, commenting on Tuesday morning, said the suggestion from a French official was “not right”.

Pic: AP

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, listens to French President Emmanuel Macron during their meeting in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Monday, Feb. 7, 2022. Macron traveled to Moscow in a bid to help defuse tensions amid a Russian troop buildup near Ukraine that fueled fears of an invasion. (Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
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Moscow has denied promising not to stage new manoeuvres near the border with Ukraine. Pic: AP

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov was speaking as six Russian warships began heading to the Black Sea for naval drills amid escalating tension between the West and Moscow over the Ukraine crisis.

Mr Peskov said Russia and France had not been able to strike a deal on de-escalating tensions.

He added, however, that the meeting between the two leaders had provided a basis for more work on the issue and that de-escalation was needed.

The same French official said Mr Putin had agreed that troops taking part in a military exercise on Belarusian territory near Ukraine’s border would be pulled back once those drills had finished on 20 February.

Mr Peskov said troops would return to their bases in Russia following the exercises, but did not give a precise date.

Mr Putin described talks with Mr Macron at the Kremlin as useful, substantive and business-like.

Paris appeared to distance itself from its official’s remarks on Tuesday. It said they referred to certain points discussed by the two presidents rather than a specific new promise from the Russian leader.

Arriving in Kyiv for talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Mr Macron said he had never expected “for one second” that Mr Putin would make concessions.

The Russian Navy's landing ship Minsk sets sail in the Dardanelles
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The Russian Navy’s landing ship Minsk sets sail in the Dardanelles on Tuesday

The Russian defence ministry said the exercises the six ships will take part in are a planned movement of military resources, according to the Interfax news agency.

The vessels are scheduled to pass through Turkey’s straits to the Black Sea on Tuesday and Wednesday, Turkish sources said.

They include the Korolev, the Minsk and the Kaliningrad, which are expected to navigate the Bosphorus on Tuesday, while the Pyotr Morgunov, the Georgy Pobedonosets and the Olenegorsky Gornyak are expected to go by on Wednesday.

Moscow has amassed troops on its border with Ukraine, prompting fears of an imminent invasion.

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Ukrainian tanks hold drills

Read more: Three new signs of Russian invasion plans

Vladimir Putin has warned that European countries would be drawn into military conflict if Ukraine were to join NATO.

He also said there would be “no winners” from the ongoing crisis.

Russia has insisted it has no plans to attack Ukraine.

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US President Joe Biden has warned there “will no longer be Nord Stream 2”, a crucial European gas pipeline, if Russia crosses into Ukrainian territory.

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