The leaders of Ukraine, France, and Germany have called on Russia to pull back its troops from the Ukrainian border amid rising tensions in the region.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and French President Emmanuel Macron were joined by German Chancellor Angela Merkel in voicing "shared concerns about the buildup of Russian troops on the border with Ukraine and in the illegally annexed Crimea," the German chancellery said in a statement issued after a three-way video conference on April 16.
"They demanded the withdrawal of these reinforcements to reach a de-escalation," the statement added.
Macron earlier received Zelenskiy for lunch in Paris and both men were later joined by Merkel via video link.
Separately, Zelenskiy said that he was ready to hold four-way talks that included Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Zelenskiy said he thought peace talks were possible and that a separate meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and Putin could help solve some issues.
Discussions in Paris were meant to prepare so-called Normandy Format talks involving the leaders of Ukraine, Russia, France, and Germany to try to resolve the Ukraine conflict, Zelenskiy said ahead of the talks. France and Germany have been mediators in the conflict since 2015.
Recent photographs, video, and other data suggest major movements of Russian armed units toward or near Ukraine's border and into Crimea, fueling concerns that Russia is preparing to send forces into Ukraine.
The United States and NATO have described it as the largest Russian military buildup since 2014, when Moscow illegally annexed Crimea and backed separatists in the east of Ukraine in a conflict that has killed more than 13,000 people.
Ukraine and the West also blame the separatists holding parts of the country’s eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk for a recent spike in hostilities, while Moscow has pointed the finger at Kyiv.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on April 16 called on Merkel and Macron to tell Kyiv to "decisively stop any provocative actions on the contact line and emphasise the need for an unconditional observance of the cease-fire regime."
The previous day, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba called for stronger Western backing, saying that "words of support aren't enough."
Kuleba, speaking after talks in Kyiv with his counterparts from Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, asked the Baltic states to reach out to other European Union and NATO members about offering "practical assistance" to Kyiv.
Kuleba accused Moscow of "openly threatening Ukraine with war and the destruction of Ukrainian statehood" and said it was necessary to show Russia that its actions in eastern Ukraine could have "very painful" consequences.
"The red line of Ukraine is the state border. If Russia crosses the red line, then it will have to suffer," he warned.
Russia's Defense Ministry has said the troops are merely responding to "threatening" actions by the NATO alliance and participating in military drills.