Macron meets Zelensky in Ukraine, as Russia keeps the world guessing.

Macron meets Zelensky in Ukraine, as Russia keeps the world guessing.

KYIV, Ukraine — President Emmanuel Macron of France said on Tuesday that the Ukraine crisis could take months to resolve, but that his shuttle diplomacy this week between Russia and Ukraine had raised hopes of stabilizing the situation.

Mr. Macron met President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine in Kyiv on Tuesday, a day after holding a five-hour meeting with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia in Moscow.

The Kremlin said on Tuesday that there were “seeds of reason” in proposals Mr. Macron had put forward during the meeting with Mr. Putin. But Mr. Putin’s spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, rejected reports that the two leaders had reached any sort of agreement on de-escalating the crisis, which Western nations say has been incited by Russia’s buildup around Ukraine of roughly 130,000 troops, many of which appear to be in the final stages of readiness for an invasion.

Mr. Putin was prepared to keep negotiating over Russia’s security demands in Eastern Europe, Mr. Peskov said, but added: “So far, we don’t see and feel the readiness of our Western counterparts to take our concerns into account.” The United States and NATO have flatly rejected Russian demands to cease the bloc’s expansion into parts of Eastern Europe that Moscow considers part of its sphere of influence.

On Monday night, the Russian leader kept the West guessing at his intentions — refusing to rule out the possibility of invading Ukraine and warning of the possibility of a full-scale war between Russia and the West, while leaving the door open to further diplomacy. He said he would speak with Mr. Macron again by phone after the French president met with Mr. Zelensky.

But some analysts worry that Mr. Putin’s engagement in diplomacy is merely buying time for Russia’s military to make final preparations for an invasion.

On Tuesday, the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement that six large landing craft from the Russian Navy’s Baltic and Northern Fleets, capable of carrying thousands of troops, had been dispatched to the waters off Ukraine in the Black Sea, raising concerns that they could open a new vector of attack.

The statement said that the ships were scheduled to take part in planned military exercises. Military analysts, however, say that combining the ships with forces already deployed to the Black Sea region would provide a significant amphibious assault force capable of threatening a large area of the coastline of Ukraine, which has only a limited coastal defense system.

Russia’s announcements of large-scale military drills in the region have prompted fears that they could be the pretext for an attack against Ukraine, which Russian forces invaded in 2014, annexing Crimea. In particular, the deployment of troops to Belarus, thousands of miles from their permanent bases, has been viewed as a threat against Kyiv, which is some 140 miles from the border with Belarus.

Speaking to reporters on the plane to Kyiv, Mr. Macron said that Mr. Putin had confirmed that he would withdraw troops from Belarus after the exercises, which are scheduled to conclude on Feb. 20, according to the Russian Defense Ministry. Mr. Peskov said that Mr. Putin did not give a date for their withdrawal, but added: “No one has ever said that Russian troops would stay in Belarus. This was never on the agenda.”

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