Macron meets Putin in Moscow amid Ukraine tensions
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The Russian president met with his French counterpart in Moscow on Monday for talks which lasted for more than five hours. Mr Putin described the first summit in Russia with a Western leader since the Kremlin started massing troops near its neighbour as “substantive” while Mr Macron said the coming days would be crucial.
A picture taken at the meeting from inside the Kremlin led Twitter users to question the success of the talks.
The photograph, showing the two leaders at opposite ends of a long table, has been mocked on social media with some suggesting it could have led to an apparent failure of communication.
Labour peer Andrew Adonis captioned the photo: “Putin’s latest mind game, ‘negotiating’ with Macron! Even Hitler didn’t have a table like this!”
One fellow Twitter user commented: “Taking social distancing to the extreme!”
A third imagined a transcript of the talks, tweeting: “‘Pardon?’ ‘What?’ ‘Sorry, what?’.” They went on to comment: “No wonder it didn’t work.”
Another compared the set up to a scene from Eddie Murphy’s 1988 comedy Coming to America in which Prince Akeem’s parents use an intercom to talk to him at the opposite end of a long dining table.
Of Mr Putin and Mr Macron, the Twitter user quipped: “Hope they have the intercom.”
A fourth person tweeted: “How to fail at negotiating in one easy lesson… Unless Putin wanted to humiliate him that is.”
According to Reuters, the Russian president and his French counterpart tucked into reindeer, sweet potatoes and blackberries at a dinner held during the talks.
At a press conference held after the negotiations, Mr Putin said: “A number of his ideas, proposals, which are probably still too early to talk about, I think it is quite possible to make the basis of our further joint steps.”
The pair are due to speak again after Mr Macron meets with leaders in Ukraine, although the table arrangements have not been specified.
Russia seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and is backing separatists in the eastern part of the country. Moscow has massed more than 100,000 troops near Ukraine’s border.
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It views Nato’s addition of 14 new east European members since the Cold War ended 30 years ago as an encroachment on its sphere of influence and threat to security.
Reuters reports Mr Putin as saying after the talks: “If Ukraine joins Nato and tries to get Crimea back by military means, European countries will automatically be drawn into military conflict with Russia. There will be no winners.”
He urged Ukraine to comply with the Minsk agreements which include the aim of ending a separatist war by Russian-speakers in the Donbass region.
Mr Macron said the independence of Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus, where Russia is engaged in military exercises, must be preserved and that he was certain of progress.
The French leader said: “Together… I’m sure we will get a result, even if it’s not easy.”
The rouble touched its strongest level in almost four weeks on Tuesday after the talks as investors look for signs of de-escalation in Moscow’s standoff with the West.
At 7.37am, the rouble was 0.2 percent stronger against the dollar at 75.34, earlier touching 75.14, its strongest level since January 13.
It had gained 0.5 percent to trade at 85.87 against the euro.
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