French President Emmanuel Macron flies to Moscow on Monday in a risky diplomatic move, seeking commitments from Russian President Vladimir Putin to dial down tensions with Ukraine, where Western leaders fear the Kremlin plans an invasion.
Macron has made a frenetic series of phone calls with Western allies, Putin and the Ukrainian leader over the past week. He will follow up on Tuesday with a visit to Kyiv, staking a lot of political capital on a mission that could prove embarrassing if he returns empty-handed.
“We’re heading to Putin’s lair, in many ways it’s a throw of the dice,” one source close to Macron told Reuters.
Russia has massed some 100,000 troops near Ukraine and demanded NATO and US security guarantees, including that NATO never admit Ukraine as a member.
Two sources close to Macron said one aim of his visit was to buy time and freeze the situation for several months, at least until a “Super April” of elections in Europe – in Hungary, Slovenia and, crucially for Macron, in France.
The French leader, who has earned a reputation for highly publicised diplomatic forays since he took power in 2017, has both tried to cajole and confront Putin over the past five years. His efforts have brought close dialogue with the Russian leader as well as painful setbacks.