French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Saturday urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to have “serious direct negotiations” with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in order to reach “a diplomatic solution” to the war.
The request came during a phone call among the three leaders, Scholz’s office said.
According to Moscow, Putin told Macron and Scholz that increasing military supplies to Ukraine risks “further destabilizing” the conflict.
Macron and Scholz “insisted on an immediate ceasefire and a withdrawal of Russian troops”, the chancellor’s office said.
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Putin said Moscow was open to resuming negotiations with Kyiv, according to the Kremlin, which did not state whether the Russian leader would engage in direct talks with Zelenskyy.
The Ukrainian president previously said he was not “eager” for dialogue with Russia, but noted that such conversations would likely have to happen for the war to end.
Russian and Ukrainian delegations have held multiple discussions since Russia launched its invasion in late February, although negotiations have recently stalled.
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Macron and Scholz also called on Putin to release 2,500 Ukrainian fighters taken as prisoners of war at the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol, Ukraine.
Moscow officials said earlier this month that the last fighters defending the factory had surrendered. Zelenskyy said they had been given permission to leave.
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Russia previously claimed that more than 900 of the Ukrainian fighters were transported to a reopened prison colony in Russian-occupied Donetsk. Some of them who had endured serious injuries were taken to a hospital.
Ukraine is eyeing the release of the fighters as part of a prisoner exchange, but Russia has not confirmed that a trade is on the table and some Russian officials have argued that the fighters should be tried or executed.
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