Home Europe Ukraine crisis: Germany’s Scholz meets Putin in Moscow to address ‘burning issues’

Ukraine crisis: Germany’s Scholz meets Putin in Moscow to address ‘burning issues’

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Russian President Vladimir Putin and Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz have begun their meeting in Moscow, shortly after Russia said its troops had begun withdrawing from the Ukrainian border in the first sign of de-escalation.

Scholz laid a wreath at the Tomb of Unknown Soldier, the war memorial dedicated to soldiers killed during World War II.

On this last-ditch diplomatic trip, Germany’s chancellor said there are “no sensible reasons” for the buildup of more than 130,000 Russian troops on Ukraine’s borders to the north, south and east, and he urged more dialogue.

The visit coincides with the Russian defence ministry’s announcement that some forces taking part in military exercises near Ukraine’s border had begun returning to their bases.

The Kremlin has signalled that it is still possible for diplomacy to head off what Western officials have said could be an imminent invasion of Ukraine. At a meeting with Putin on Monday, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov indicated that Russia was ready to keep talking about the security grievances that have led to the crisis.

But much remains unclear about Russia’s intentions and how the crisis over Ukraine will play out.

Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists on Tuesday that the meeting with Putin was an opportunity for each side to exchange opinions on “burning issues”, according to the Russian TASS news agency.

Scholz’s visit to Moscow comes a day after he met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv in a show of solidarity.

On Monday, Scholz demanded “clear steps to de-escalate the current tensions” from Russia. And he underlined Western unity in preparing to impose tough sanctions if Russia does encroach further into Ukraine, though once again he didn’t specify what exactly whose would be.

Scholz said that “we are in a position any day to take the necessary decisions.”

“No one should doubt the determination and preparedness of the EU, NATO, Germany and the United States, for example, when it comes to what has to be done if there is military aggression against Ukraine,” he added. “We will then act, and there will be very far-reaching measures that would have a significant influence on Russia’s possibilities of economic development.”

US President Joe Biden and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson also agreed during a call on Monday evening that there “remained a crucial window for diplomacy.”

Speaking before the Russian troop announcement, British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said earlier on Tuesday morning that a Russian invasion of Ukraine “could be imminent,” but there was still time for Putin “to step away from the brink”.

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