President Emmanuel Macron will travel to Moscow and Kyiv next week to try to deescalate the crisis conflagrated by Russia’s military buildup around Ukraine’s borders, his office announced on Friday.

Macron will visit Moscow on Monday and Kyiv on Tuesday for face-to-face talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, “in coordination with European partners,” French media quoted a statement from the Elysee as saying.

The visit is critical for France, which is heading the European Council Presidency, and for Macron personally, who is awaiting the “peak of the geopolitical crisis” before announcing his candidacy for re-election due in April. Political experts predict that by hedging his bets against the Ukraine conflict, Macron could position himself in a stronger position compared to his presidential rivals.

As the head of the Council, Macron is determined that Europe should play a leading role in settling the conflict knocking at the eastern borders, which, according to him, is a threat to the region’s “collective security.”

He has repeatedly expressed concern about the situation on the ground and held multiple phone exchanges in recent days with his Russian and Ukrainian counterparts, as well as with US President Joe Biden.

France and Germany have been playing an important role in the Normandy format dialogue together with Russia and Ukraine in finding a political solution since the crisis first erupted in 2014 after Russian forces invaded the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine and annexed the Crimean peninsula. The conflict parties signed an agreement in 2015 called the Minsk protocol to implement a peace plan and end fighting.

Paris has persistently called upon Moscow to fully implement the Minsk agreement, which has not met with complete success as Russia continues to support the separatists fighting Ukrainian government troops in Donbas.

Foreign Minister Jean Yves Le Drian, who is scheduled to travel alongside Macron, has assured Ukraine of French and European support. Any intervention threatening Kyiv’s security will be met with sanctions against Russia, he warned last week.

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