Zelensky appeals to the West not to cause panic, and Macron and Putin want calm

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky appealed Friday to Western countries not to panic because of the Russian military build-up on the border with his country, at the same time, calling on the Kremlin to take steps to prove that these forces do not intend to invade his country.
The Ukrainian president's call came at a time when his Russian counterparts, Vladimir Putin and French Emmanuel Macron, agreed on the "necessity of de-escalation" and continuing "dialogue" to resolve this crisis.
“We do not need this panic,” Zelensky said during a press conference with foreign media, because “we have to ensure the stability of the economy” of the former Soviet republic.
He added that "the possibility of the attack exists and has not dissipated, but it was no less dangerous in 2021 (...) we do not see an escalation beyond what was present" last year.
The Ukrainian president expressed his regret that the follow-up of the world media and “even respected leaders of countries” makes us believe that we are “in the midst of war” in all countries, and that “there are armies advancing on the roads, but this is not the case.”
The West has accused Russia for weeks of mobilizing more than one hundred thousand soldiers on the Ukrainian border in preparation for a possible invasion of its neighbor, threatening Moscow with unprecedented sanctions in the event of an attack.
US Assistant Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said Wednesday that "all indications are" that the Kremlin "will use military force at some point, perhaps between now and mid-February."
And several Western embassies, especially the American and Canadian, announced the recall of a number of their employees from Ukraine due to the risk of this country being exposed to a Russian invasion.
Eastern Ukraine has been at war since 2014, with pro-Russian separatists, and Moscow is accused of supporting them. This conflict erupted shortly after Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea, resulting in 13,000 deaths.
The Ukrainian president's statement came shortly after the Elysee announced that the French and Russian presidents had agreed, during a phone call that lasted more than an hour, on Friday, on "the need to defuse the escalation" and continue the "dialogue."
According to the French presidency, "President Putin has not shown any aggressive intention (...) he has clearly said that he does not seek confrontation."
Macron will consult Friday evening with his Ukrainian counterpart to inform him of "our commitment to Ukraine's sovereignty and solidarity at this stage of tensions, and our commitment to continue negotiations with the aim of finding a path to implement the Minsk agreements," according to the Elysee.
For its part, the Kremlin said that Putin stressed to Macron that the West was ignoring Russian demands to reduce tension in the crisis over Ukraine.
On Wednesday, the United States and NATO officially rejected demands that Russia considers vital to ensuring its security, foremost of which is an end to the expansion policy pursued by NATO and the return of Western military deployment to the 1997 borders. The
Kremlin quoted Putin as saying to Macron that “the answers of the United States and NATO did not take into account Russia’s concerns. The core (…) The fundamental question has been ignored, which is how the United States and its allies … intend to apply the principle that no party should enhance its security at the expense of other countries.”
The Kremlin said Russia would "determine its next response" after studying in detail the response of its opponents.
If Washington and NATO have rejected the main Russian demands, they have offered to work on imposing joint restrictions on the deployment of short and medium-range missiles in Europe, provided that this also includes military exercises in areas adjacent to the opponent camp.
The United States and the European Union announced in a joint statement on Friday that they would work to secure "additional quantities of natural gas" for Europe to face any consequences if Russia attacked Ukraine.
US President Joe Biden and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in the statement that "the United States and the European Union are working together to ensure continuous, adequate and localized supplies of natural gas to Europe from various sources around the world to avoid supply shocks, including those that may come from About a new Russian invasion of Ukraine.
On Thursday, the United States requested a meeting of the UN Security Council on Monday because of the "clear threat" posed by Russia to "international peace and security."
On Thursday, Biden reiterated to Zelensky that the United States and its allies would respond "firmly" to any possible Russian invasion.
For his part, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Friday morning that his country "does not want war" and prefers "the path of diplomacy", but is ready to defend its interests.
“If it is left to Russia, there will be no war. We don't want war. But we also will not allow our interests to be blatantly belittled, or ignored.”
Moscow promised a wide response if its demands were rejected, but without specifying the nature of this response.
Russian lawmakers suggested that Moscow recognize the independence of the separatist regions loyal to it in eastern Ukraine and arm them.
The West accuses Russia of being behind the conflict in eastern Ukraine, which erupted in 2014 after Moscow annexed Ukraine's Crimea.
In Brussels, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Friday that Russia has a "wide range" of options against Ukraine, stressing at the same time that the possibility of negotiations and peace talks is still available.
“Electronic (war) is one of them, the coup attempts to overthrow the government in Kiev, sabotage – they have intelligence agents operating in Ukraine at this very time,” the secretary-general said at a conference organized by the US think tank the Atlantic Council. Therefore, we must be prepared for a wide range of different Russian aggressive actions against Ukraine.”
Stoltenberg admitted that "there are differences between the allies" regarding the support to be provided to Ukraine, which is not a member of the alliance and will not benefit from any deployment of combat units on its soil.
While the United States, Britain and Canada have sent weapons and military trainers to Ukraine, other countries, such as Germany, have refused to provide this kind of direct military support.
"There is no certainty about what Russia plans to do," the NATO Secretary-General said.
"On the part of NATO, we are ready to engage in a political dialogue, but we are also ready to respond if Russia chooses an armed conflict and confrontation. So we are ready for both options.”
"We are working hard to find the best and peaceful political solution, but we have also prepared for the worst," he added.
For its part, Russia announced Friday that it had prevented several European officials from entering its territory, noting that it had taken this step in response to Brussels' policy of imposing "absurd unilateral restrictions."
The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the officials prevented from entering its territory, especially representatives of the security forces and legislative and executive bodies in a number of European Union countries, are "personally responsible for spreading anti-Russian policy."
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