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Hollande tells Putin of his ‘grave concerns’

French president François Hollande expressed his "grave concerns" on Tuesday to Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin over the "unilateral" Russian humanitarian mission in Ukraine.

Hollande tells Putin of his 'grave concerns'
Ukrainian troops have moved in on Donetsk, the largest city in eastern Ukraine, pounding neighbourhoods with shelling. Photo: Anatoli Stepanov/AFP

French President Francois Hollande on Tuesday told his Russian counterpart he had "grave concerns" about the prospect of a unilateral Russian mission in Ukraine.

"He stressed the grave concerns that the possibility of a unilateral Russian mission on Ukrainian soil had prompted," Hollande's office said in a statement after the French leader had spoken by phone to Vladimir Putin.

Hollande emphasised that a humanitarian operation "could only take place on Ukrainian territory if the national Ukrainian autorities gave their consent, both in terms of the format of the mission and on how it would be carried out."

"It has to be done within a multilateral framework and under the umbrella of the International Red Cross," added Hollande's office.

The French leader's comments came as a Russian convoy of 280 carrying "humanitarian supplies" was snaking its way towards conflict-wracked eastern Ukraine, despite fears in the West the mission could be a pretext to sneak in support for pro-Russian rebels.

Ukraine has said it will not allow the convoy to enter its territory and stressed that any humanitarian aid be handed over at the border.

In a later conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the two leaders agreed to "continue their joint efforts to move towards a political agreement."

They said they had "identical views" on the Ukraine, "in particular on the conditions for a genuine humanitarian mission".

Earlier Tuesday, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said: "We have to be extremely careful because this could be a cover by the Russians to set themselves up near Donetsk and Lugansk and declare a fait accompli."

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UKRAINE

Macron, Scholz and Draghi meet Ukrainian president in Kyiv

French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi have met the Ukrainian president in Kyiv, after the trio travelled overnight by train from Poland.

Macron, Scholz and Draghi meet Ukrainian president in Kyiv

The three leaders left in the early hours of Thursday, arriving into Kyiv on Thursday morning. After a visit to the heavily-bombed town of Irpin, they met Ukraine’s leader Volodymyr Zelensky.

It is the first time that the leaders of the three European Union countries have visited Kyiv since Russia’s February 24th invasion of Ukraine, and the visit comes as Kyiv is pushing for membership of the EU.

Macron has been paying a two-day visit to Romania and Moldova to discuss the ongoing crisis caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

There had been widespread speculation in France that he would combine the trip with a visit to Zelensky in Ukraine, but this was not confirmed until Thursday morning.

In a joint press conference with Romanian president Klaus Iohannis, Macron reiterated his desire that Ukraine should win the war, but added that eventually negotiations between Ukraine and Russia will be necessary.

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