Zelensky seeks support in Europe to cope with Russian military deployment

The Ukrainian president has met with Macron and Merkel to discuss the worrying situation on the Ukrainian-Russian border after Moscow deployed new troops
AFP/ CHARLES PLATIAU  -   El presidente de Ucrania, Volodímir Zelenskiy, la canciller alemana Angela Merkel, el presidente francés Emmanuel Macron y el presidente ruso Vladimir Putin asisten a la conferencia de prensa tras la cumbre en el Palacio del Elíseo, en París, el 9 de diciembre de 2019.

AFP/ CHARLES PLATIAU  -   Ukrainian President Volodymir Zelenskiy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and Russian President Vladimir Putin attend the post-summit press conference at the Elis Palace.

Russia has decided to mobilise 20,000 troops just 100 kilometres from Ukraine, triggering a new scenario of tension on the border. This deployment has deeply worried Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who has called for urgent help from Europe and NATO to deal with the "Russian threat". "We condemn the actions and statements of Moscow, which wants to increase military tension and undermine diplomatic efforts," the Ukrainian government said. 

In the midst of this worrying situation Zelensky has travelled to Paris to meet with Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Zelensky, relying on his good relations with the European Union, hopes to get strong support from his European partners in the face of Russia's military demonstration. "I have always had a good relationship with Emmanuel Macron, he supported me during the presidential elections and has helped Ukraine a lot, especially with the sanctions against Russia," he said in an interview with French daily Le Figaro. Zelensky also noted his cordial relations with Angela Merkel and Charles Michel, president of the European Council. However, the Ukrainian president has emphasised security issues, which he hopes to address with European leaders. "Europe's security depends on Ukraine's security. We cannot stay in the waiting room of the EU and NATO," Zelensky said. 

Macron and Merkel have agreed to work together to put an end to this grave situation, insisting on their commitment to the "independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine". They also urged Russia to withdraw its troops from the border. "They demanded the withdrawal of these reinforcements in order to reach a de-escalation," Reuters reports.

AFP PHOTO / Ukrainian presidential press service / HO - Conferencia de prensa del grupo de Normandía (compuesto por Ucrania, Alemania, Francia y Rusia) tras la cumbre celebrada en Paris
AFP PHOTO / Ukrainian presidential press service / HO - Press conference of the Normandy group (Ukraine, Germany, France and Russia) after the summit in Paris.

France is also considering sanctioning Moscow if it continues to mobilise troops. "We must define clear red lines with Russia," French President Macron said during an interview on US broadcaster CBS. He also said he was ready to impose sanctions if Moscow demonstrates "unacceptable behaviour" on the border with Ukraine. "I believe that after unacceptable behaviour, sanctions must be imposed," the French president warned.

Germany has also strongly condemned the Russian operation. Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, Germany's defence minister, said that Russia is "a concrete and immediate threat to European security". She also accused the country of possessing "excessive armaments" and of deploying missiles that could reach Germany. She also criticised the political situation in Russia as "illiberal and undemocratic". 

Ukraine is also receiving support from non-EU countries. According to the British newspaper The Sunday Times, the Royal Navy will send two warships to the Black Sea in May in the face of rising tensions in the area. A spokesman for the UK Ministry of Defence has also expressed 'unwavering' support for Ukraine. 

AFP/ LUDOVIC MARIN  - El presidente francés Emmanuel Macron da la bienvenida al presidente ruso Vladimir Putin, a su llegada al Palacio del Elíseo
AFP/ LUDOVIC MARIN  - French President Emmanuel Macron welcomes Russian President Vladimir Putin upon his arrival at the Elysée Palace.

The Russian military deployment is the largest since 2014 according to NATO. The Atlantic Alliance has also expressed its rejection of Moscow's decision, which it considers "unjustified, unexplored and deeply worrying". NATO Secretary General Jens Stolteberg announced that the allies "have reaffirmed their unwavering support for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity". 

For its part, the Kremlin considers that this military operation "should not worry anyone", as it "does not pose a threat to anyone". The deployment is aimed at countering NATO's war activities in the region that 'threaten Russia', according to the Russian Defence Ministry.