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France denies Russian warships arriving in Black Sea represent escalation

PARIS — A French official said Wednesday that Paris was informed in advance six Russian warships would enter the Black Sea and the operation did not break a de-escalation commitment French President Emmanuel Macron claimed he secured from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

During a meeting Monday in Moscow, Putin told Macron that pre-planned military operations would be “maintained,” the Elysée official said. “But [Putin also promised] that he would not conduct other unplanned operations that could be analyzed as signs of escalation.”

The talks took place amid a growing Russian threat to Ukraine, on whose border Russia has amassed more than 100,000 troops. Macron said Tuesday that he had secured a commitment from Putin that he would not escalate military activities around Ukraine, but the Kremlin pushed back hard against there being any agreement.

The Elysée official said the six large landing vessels entering the Black Sea did not represent a breach of the guarantee France says it obtained from Putin, as it was notified in advance. “Otherwise there would have been a reaction already,” the official said.

In a statement, Russia’s defense ministry said the movement of the six ships was “a planned transition from the Mediterranean to the Black Sea, where they will take part in naval exercises.”

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