French President Emmanuel Macron said on Monday he hoped to make a start towards a de-escalation of tensions over Ukraine, as he began talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow. Mr. Macron flew into Moscow at the start of a week of intense Western diplomacy aimed at easing fears of a Russian invasion of its proWestern neighbour. Sitting across a long table from Mr. Putin at the Kremlin, Mr. Macron said he was in Moscow to address the “critical situation” in Europe. “This discussion can make a start in the direction in which we need to go, which is towards a de-escalation,” Mr. Macron said, calling for “an answer that is useful for both Russia and for all the rest of Europe”. Welcoming Mr. Macron as “dear Emmanuel”, Mr. Putin said Russia and France have “shared concerns regarding security in Europe” and hailed “how much effort the current French leadership is making” to resolve these concerns. With tens of thousands of Russian troops camped near the Ukrainian border, Mr. Macron was the “first top Western leader to meet Mr. Putin since the crisis began. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz was due to meet on Monday with U.S. President Joe Biden in Washington, as Western leaders look to maintain a united front in their biggest showdown with Russia since the end of the Cold War. Mr. Macron, who will go on to Kiev on Tuesday for talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, told reporters on his plane from Paris that he was “reasonably” optimistic going into the talks.