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POLITICS

Macron holds five-hour meeting with Putin over Ukraine crisis

French president Emmanuel Macron held five hours of talks with Russian premier Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Monday in an attempt to avert war in Ukraine.

Macron holds five-hour meeting with Putin over Ukraine crisis
Vladimir Putin and Emmanuel Macron meet in Moscow. Photo Sputnik/AFP

After taking a Covid test, Macron met Putin in Moscow and after a brief public greeting in English, the two men held private talks that went on for more than five hours.

At a later press briefing, Putin joked “President Macron has been talking to me for nearly six hours, almost torturing me,” but added that the talks had “possible proposals for compromise”, saying that he wanted to avoid a war.

The two had a seven-course dinner during their talks.

Macron on Tuesday heads to Ukraine for talks with president Volodymyr Zelensky, as 125,000 Russian soldiers gather on the Ukrainian border.

Macron’s visits come during a week of intense Western diplomacy amid a major Russian military buildup on its southwestern frontier that has raised fears it could soon march into Ukraine.

Putin said several proposals put forward by Macron at talks on Monday could form a basis for moving forward on the crisis over Ukraine.

“A number of his ideas, proposals… are possible as a basis for further steps,” Putin said after more than five hours of talks in the Kremlin.

He did not provide any details but said the two leaders would speak by phone after Macron meets with Zelensky.

The French president said he had made proposals of “concrete security guarantees” to Putin.

“President Putin assured me of his readiness to engage in this sense and his desire to maintain stability and the territorial integrity of Ukraine,” Macron said.

“There is no security for the Europeans if there is no security for Russia,” he added.

The French presidency said the proposals include an engagement from both sides not to take any new military action, the launching of a new strategic dialogue and efforts to revive the peace process in Kyiv’s conflict with Moscow-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.

With tensions soaring between Moscow and Ukraine and its allies, Macron was the first top Western leader to meet Putin since the crisis began in December.

Putin denied that Russia was acting aggressively towards Ukraine or the West, saying “it is not us who are moving towards NATO’s borders”.

If Ukraine joins the Western military bloc, Russia could get sucked into a conflict with European countries, he added.

“Do you want France to go to war with Russia?” Putin said.

Ukraine, a former Soviet republic that gained independence in 1991, has expressed a desire for closer ties with the West and membership of the NATO military alliance that sought to contain Moscow and its Communist allies during the Cold War.

Putin has complained that NATO’s eastward expansion following the end of the Cold War has undermined Russia’s security.

The Russian leader said Ukrainian authorities were to blame for the continued conflict in the country’s east, home to pro-Russian breakaway enclaves which have previously seen fierce fighting between separatists and Ukrainian forces.

In Washington, US President Joe Biden warned Putin that he would “end” the controversial new Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Europe if Moscow sends forces across the Ukrainian border as it did during the 2014 annexation of Crimea.

“If Russia invades – that means tanks or troops crossing the border of Ukraine, again – then there will be no longer a Nord Stream 2,” Biden told a joint White House news conference with Scholz on Monday.

“I promise you,” Biden said, “we will bring an end to it.”

Biden’s declaration was the bluntest so far on the fate of the massive pipeline, which is complete but has yet to begin funnelling natural gas to Germany, tying energy-hungry Europe ever closer to Russia.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, visiting Biden, was less direct and said only that Berlin was “united” with Washington, but declined to mention the pipeline by name.

Scholz himself will be in Moscow and Kyiv next week for talks with Putin and Zelensky.

US officials say Moscow has assembled 110,000 troops near the border with Ukraine and is on track to amass a large enough force — some 150,000 soldiers — for a full-scale invasion by mid-February.

Russia insists it has no plans to attack and has instead put forward its own demands for security guarantees.

Member comments

  1. All the European leaders are lining up to meet Putin, it is of central importance that diplomacy triumphs over destruction.

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POLICE

France proposes getting rid of penalties for ‘minor’ speeding offences

The French government is considering changing speeding laws so that drivers will not lose points on their licence if they are caught going just a few kilometres over the speed limit.

France proposes getting rid of penalties for 'minor' speeding offences

France’s Interior Ministry is considering changing its current rules for minor speeding violations – proposing getting rid of the penalty for drivers who only violate the rule by going just a few kilometres over the speed limit.

The Ministry has not laid out a timeline for when this could come into effect, but they said they are currently in the preliminary stages of studying how the change could be carried out.

“The fine of course remains,” said the Interior Ministry to French daily Le Parisien.

That is to say you can still be fined for going five kilometres over the speed limit, but there might not be any more lost points for driving a couple kilometres over the posted limit. 

READ ALSO These are the offences that can cost you points on your driving licence

Of the 13 million speeding tickets issued each year in France, 58 percent are for speeding violations of less than 5 km per hour over the limit, with many coming from automated radar machines.

How does the current rule work?

The rule itself is already a bit flexible, depending on where the speeding violation occurs.

If the violation happens in an urban area or low-speed zone (under 50 km per hour limit), then it is considered a 4th class offence, which involves a fixed fine of €135. Drivers can also lose a point on their licences as a penalty for this offence. 

Whereas, on highways and high-speed roads, the consequences of speeding by 5 km per hour are less severe. The offence is only considered 3rd class, which means the fixed fine is €68. There is still the possibility of losing a point on your licence, however. 

How do people feel about this?

Pierre Chasseray, a representative from the organisation “40 Millions d’Automobilistes,” thinks the government should do away with all penalties for minor speeding offences, including fines. He told French daily Le Parisien that this is only a “first step.”

Meanwhile, others are concerned that the move to get rid of points-deductions could end up encouraging people to speed, as they’ll think there is no longer any consequence.

To avoid being accused of carelessness, France’s Interior Ministry is also promising to become “firmer” with regards to people who use other people’s licences in order to get out of losing points – say by sending their spouse’s or grandmother’s instead of their own after being caught speeding. The Interior Ministry plans to digitalise license and registration in an effort to combat this. 

Ultimately, if you are worried about running out of points on your licence, there are still ways to recover them.

You can recover your points after six months of driving without committing any other offences, and there are also awareness training courses that allow you to gain your points back. It should be noted, however, that these trainings typically cost between €150 and €250, and they do not allow you to regain more than four points.

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