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French, German leaders to talk to Putin, Ukraine as US forces build up

French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz are stepping in to try face-to-face diplomacy in an effort to prevent a feared Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Macron will meet with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Monday, then travel to the Ukrainian capital Kyiv on Tuesday.

Scholz is slated to visit Kyiv Feb. 14 and Moscow the following day.

The high-level visits follow a show of support for Putin by Chinese President Xi Jinping, who met with Putin Friday ahead of the start of the Olympics in Beijing and presented a united front against the West, touting their “unshakable” relationship as they called for NATO to halt any expansion.

Macron has pushed for dialogue with Putin and has spoken to him several times in recent weeks. France is also moving troops to Romania as part of the NATO’s preparation for a potential Russian invasion.

US troops arriving in Germany on Feb. 4.
US troops arriving in Germany on Feb. 4.
via REUTERS

US reinforcements are also moving into Eastern Europe. A small plane carrying command personnel from the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division arrived Saturday at Rzeszow military base in southeastern Poland, a day after US equipment landed at the Baltic port city of Gdynia.

Their arrivals follow President Biden’s decision to send 3,000 more troops to Poland and Romania as the standoff over Ukraine continues.

The U.S. accused the Kremlin on Thursday of an elaborate plot to fabricate an attack by Ukrainian forces that Russia could use as a pretext to take military action. The U.S. has not provided detailed information backing up the claims, which Moscow has vehemently denied.

A Ukrainian soldier during missile training.
A Ukrainian soldier during missile training.
AP

Jon Finer, the deputy National Security Adviser, told NPR that Russia has used so-called “false flag” operations before.

“Russia has a long history of conducting operations like this where they will fabricate, essentially, some incident and then use that incident to justify military action that they wanted to take for wholly separate reasons,” Finer said.

“And the reason that we are talking about this stuff in advance is really twofold. One, we think it makes it a bit more complicated for them to conduct exactly this operation, should they choose to do that. But second, if they decide to go ahead anyway, it makes it a bit harder for them after the fact to use that operation as a legitimate justification for choosing to go to war.”

With Post wire services

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