According to the German chancellor’s office, French and German leaders have pushed Russian President Vladimir Putin to engage “direct [and] serious conversations” with Ukraine‘s president, according to BBC.
For 80 minutes, Emmanuel Macron and Olaf Scholz chatted with Vladimir Putin on the phone. According to the chancellor’s office, the two “insisted on a rapid ceasefire and the departure of Russian soldiers.”
According to the Kremlin, Russia’s president stated that Moscow was willing to resume talks with Kyiv. The potential of direct talks between Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky, was not mentioned.
The Ukrainian president has previously stated that while he was not “excited” for negotiations, they would almost certainly be required to settle the crisis. Since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, delegations from Russia and Ukraine have attended many rounds of discussions, both virtually and in person, but efforts have recently stopped.
Putin was also urged by France and Germany to release 2,500 Ukrainian fighters held as POWs at the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol. The enormous plant became the last bastion of resistance in the southern port city, which was bombarded mercilessly by Russian forces and is now in ashes.
Moscow officials announced earlier this month that the plant’s last defenders had surrendered, and President Zelensky stated they had been given permission to leave.
More than 900 servicemen from Azovstal were moved to a recently reopened prison colony in Russian-controlled territory, according to Maria Zakharova of Russia’s foreign ministry, but it was unclear where those who left in subsequent days were taken.
Ukraine stated that it hoped they would be released as part of a prisoner swap, but Russia has not confirmed this, and some MPs in Russia believe the fighters should be tried or executed.