France to host meeting between Russian and Ukrainian officials

Russian and Ukrainian officials are set to meet in Paris on Wednesday for talks with their French and German counterparts in a bid to defuse tensions, an aide to French President Emmanuel Macron said.

France to host meeting between Russian and Ukrainian officials
Emmanuel Macron believes a diplomatic solution is possible. Photo: Ludovic Marin/AFP

The meeting – a revival of four-way talks between the nations known as the Normandy Format – is part of efforts to avert war, with France seeing “a path to de-escalation” that would include steps from Ukraine and Russia, the aide told reporters on condition of anonymity on Monday.

“The president thinks there is a space for diplomacy, a path to de-escalation,” the aide said, confirming that Macron would speak to Putin “in the coming days.”

The meeting on Wednesday will bring together one of Russia’s vice-prime ministers and a senior aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, as well as diplomatic advisors to Macron and German leader Olaf Scholz, the French aide said.

Referring to the massing of Russian troops on Ukraine’s border, he said: “We are very worried. We are also very keen to avoid creating any ambiguity or creating any additional volatility.”

He added that France’s idea for a diplomatic solution to the standoff would encompass several confidence-building measures.

These would include Ukraine’s parliament delaying a law governing the status of Russian-backed separatist provinces in the east of the country, which Moscow sees as violating previous commitments, as well as Russia backing “humanitarian measures”.

These could include prisoner exchanges and the opening of check-points manned by the separatists.

France also would push for “a public statement from the Russians about their intentions that reassures everyone,” the aide said.

Macron is set to take part in talks with US President Joe Biden and fellow European leaders on Monday before travelling to Berlin on Tuesday to meet Scholz.

The meeting with Scholz “will be an opportunity to clearly align our position with Germany. We share the same analysis of the situation and we agree on what needs to be done if the situation were to get worse,” the aide said.

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Students blockade Paris schools in election protest

Students blockaded five schools in Paris on Tuesday to demonstrate their political concerns ahead of the second round of the Presidential elections on Sunday.

Students blockade Paris schools in election protest

In addition to the five blockaded lycées, the université Paris 8 in Saint-Denis was closed “for security reasons”.

The students – who are too young to make their voices heard at the ballot box – were protesting against the options available to voters in the second round – where incumbent Emmanuel Macron takes on far-right leader Marine Le Pen – and follows earlier student protests at the Sorbonne.

Many were demonstrating in protest at what they saw as inadequate policies on climate change and social issues from both candidates in the final round of voting, as well as the lack of choice for the electorate.

“It is a continuation of what happened at the Sorbonne,” one student told AFP. “We want a third social round, because the two candidates qualified for the second round have no social or ecological programmes. 

“We want to give a new breath to this Fifth Republic a little at the end of the race.

“We are fed up with the fascist state. We are here against Marine Le Pen, against fascism, for the climate and against capitalism,” another student at the lycée Louis-le-Grand in the capital’s fifth arrondissement said.

“We have blocked all the entrances. We will stay there as long as possible.”

About 100 students blockaded the prestigious school. Some students chant slogans against the “Front National” – the former name of second-round candidate Marine Le Pen’s far-right Rassemblement National party.

The blockades ended peacefully at the end of the day.