French, German officials speak with Ukrainian president’s chief of staff ahead of Moscow visit
Andriy Yermak, the chief-of-staff for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, spoke with senior French and German officials ahead of their visit to Russia, Yermak said on Twitter on Jan. 4.
Emmanuel Bonn and Jens Plötner, senior diplomatic advisors to the leaders of France and Germany, respectively, are scheduled to hold talks with the Russian president’s deputy chief-of-staff, Dmitry Kozak, on Jan. 6.
The German and French delegations agreed to continue to closely coordinate their approaches “in the context of present circumstance,” Yermak said. While details about these talks are yet to be revealed by the administration, Yermak thanked Germany and France for their enduring support of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Earlier reports in German media suggested high-ranking officials of the so-called “Normandy Four” (France, Germany, Ukraine, and Russia) will resume meeting in that format, with Yermak representing Ukraine.
In late December, Yermak said he was planning to hold talks with Kozak to discuss the impasse at the Trilateral Contact Group on Ukraine, a consultative body that involves Ukraine, Russia and the OSCE, which was established in 2014.
A Russian troop build-up on the Ukrainian border was first widely reported in early December 2021, with several media outlets speculating that Russia might invade Ukraine with a force of 175,000 troops in early 2022.
U.S. and EU officials have expressed concern over the steady escalation of tensions by Russia on Ukraine’s eastern border. The White House is working on a potential response, hoping to deter Moscow from launching a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
U.S. President Joe Biden has described the response as “a most comprehensive initiative, which is going to make it very difficult for Putin to do what many fear he just might.”
Meanwhile, Oleksiy Danilov, the Secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, stated that a direct invasion of Ukraine by Russian armed forces is unlikely. However, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov has said that a renewed Russian offensive in Ukraine may occur in late January 2022.
Russia denies having further plans to invade Ukraine, and has issued ultimatums demanding that Ukraine be forbidden from acceding to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), in addition to a guarantee against any expansion of NATO military infrastructure eastward.
The United States and Russia are scheduled to discuss the granting of “security guarantees” to the Kremlin on Jan. 10.
The NATO-Russia Council is set to meet on Jan. 12.
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