2014-12-06 18:53:00

French Pres Hollande meets with Putin in Moscow

(Vatican Radio) French President Francois Hollande has met with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin during an impromptu visit to Moscow to discuss mounting tensions over the conflict between government forces and pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. Hollande also spoke about France's decision to delay the delivery of two war ships to Russia.

Listen to Stefan Bos' report: 

In televised remarks opening the meeting, French President Hollande said he hopes the unexpected talks in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin would "rid ourselves of the walls that divide us."

Hollande arrived in the Russian capital after he vowed in Kazakhstan to work towards a “de-escalation” in the Ukraine crisis.

More than 4,300 people have been killed in eastern Ukraine since the separatist rebellion erupted there in April. The fighting began after Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine following the overthrow of a Moscow-backed president.


Hollande said the eight-month conflict posed "serious threats to the economy of the entire region”.

France is suffering too. It delayed the planned delivery of a warship to Russia after coming under intense pressure from its Western allies to suspend the sale because of tensions between Russia and Ukraine.

On Friday, France's defense minister said in a television interview it may be forced to cancel the delivery of all two Mistral-class helicopter carriers that it was building for Russia in a $1.5 billion deal.

Yet Paris faces hefty fines if it breaches the contract with Russia, an issue that was expected to be high on the agenda in the talks between the French and Russian presidents. 


The West has accused Russia of supporting pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine with military hardware and troops, charges Moscow denies.

In his annual state of the union address this week, President Putin also accused "enemies of yesterday" of trying to bring a new Iron Curtain down around Russia with sanctions and threats.

That's why Hollande said he and Russia's Putin, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and German Chancellor Angela Merkel should start "a process of reducing tension" together.

Ukrainian President Poroshenko announced Saturday he had already spoken to Hollande by phone about how to end the conflict in eastern Ukraine, ahead of a planned new ceasefire there, next week.

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