Paris - Russia should reduce its military presence along the border with Ukraine and thereby ease the situation, Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said after meeting French President Francois Hollande in Paris today.
Francouzský prezident Francois Hollande a český premiér Bohuslav Sobotka se setkali v Paříži. ČTK/AP Michel Spingler
Besides the tense situation in Ukraine, the meeting focused on other topics such as European integration, nuclear energy and defence cooperation.
The Czech Republic is watching with concern the high concentration of Russian troops along the borders of Ukraine, Sobotka (Social Democrats, CSSD), on a two-day visit to France, said.
Prague believes that Russia should start de-escalating the situation by reducing its military presence along the Ukrainian border, he added.
He told CTK that Prague and Paris share the approach to the Ukrainian developments.
"In think both the Czech Republic and France are of the view that the causes of the escalating tension rest in the massive concentration of Russian units along Ukraine´s border, which naturally exerts pressure on Ukraine and it may be considered an act of intimidation," Sobotka said.
He said Russia aims its steps to increase confusion and tension in Eastern and Southeastern Ukraine.
In spite of that, Sobotka said in his view the time for another round of talks about further sanctions to be imposed on Russia has not come for the time being. They should be discussed only if Russia annexed another part of Ukraine, he said.
Sobotka said he has informed Hollande about Prague´s sceptical stance on launching economic sanctions.
At a joint press conference, Hollande warned that the EU might tighten its sanctions against Russia if no solution were found at the Geneva talks of the foreign ministers of the EU, U.S., Russia and Ukraine today.
Cited by the French Press Agency AFP, Hollande said a possible tightening of sanctions should be debated by the extraordinary EU summit in Brussels next week.
He said he believes that the presidential election in Ukraine, due on May 25, will enable a way out of the crisis.
Russian President Vladimir Putin today resolutely dismissed information about the presence of Russian troops or instructors in the east of Ukraine. He said it is local people who have stood up in support of their demands.
Sobotka and Hollande today also discussed another problematic region, the Central African Republic and Mali.
If the EU decided to extend its peacekeeping mission in Mali, its Czech members can be expected to continue operating in it. Their number, which is several dozens now, might slightly increase, Sobotka said.
Later today, Sobotka is to attend the launch of the EU election campaign by the French Socialists. On Friday, he is scheduled to meet French Prime Minister Manuel Valls.