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Live updates: Russia’s war in Ukraine

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The leaders of Germany and France held a phone call with Vladimir Putin on Saturday, in which they pressed the Russian President to agree to an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine and withdraw Russia’s troops from the country, German officials said.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron spoke with Putin for 80 minutes “on their initiative,” according to the German government’s press office.

“The German chancellor and the French president urged an immediate ceasefire and a withdrawal of Russian troops. They called on the Russian president to engage in serious direct negotiations with the Ukrainian president and to find a diplomatic solution to the conflict,” the German government news release said.

A statement from the French Presidential office, the Elysee Palace, said: “Any solution to the war must be negotiated between Moscow and Kyiv.”

In the call, Macron and Scholz also called for the release of about 2,500 Azovstal defenders who have been taken as prisoners of war by Russian forces, the French readout said, in a reference to Ukrainian forces who were captured after defending the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol for weeks.

In addition, the two leaders urged Putin to lift the blockade of Odesa to allow the export of Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea in order to avoid a world food crisis, according to the statement.

Some context: Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Friday that negotiations between Russia and Ukraine were frozen. He also accused Kyiv of making “contradictory” statements that Moscow did not understand.

A day earlier, Peskov said Moscow expected Kyiv to accept the status quo and meet its territorial demands, following remarks by former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger that appeared to suggest Ukraine has to agree to give up Crimea and much of the Donbas region to Russia.

In a May 23 interview with Reuters, Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak ruled out agreeing to a ceasefire with Russia and said Kyiv would not accept any deal with Moscow that involved ceding territory.

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