Macron to keep speaking with Putin ‘as long as necessary’
PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron said on Wednesday he would speak with Russian leader Vladimir Putin as long as was needed to persuade him to stop Russia’s war in Ukraine.
“I have chosen to remain in contact with President Putin for as long as I can, and for as long is necessary, to unstintingly seek to convince him to renounce violence… and to prevent the contagion and spreading of the conflict,” Macron said in a televised address.
But he warned: “The days to come will likely be harder and harder.”
The French leader repeatedly spoke to Putin to try to avert conflict, and sought in vain to broker a summit between the Russian leader and US President Joe Biden.
Bur he has also spoken to Putin on two occasions since the invasion was launched on February 24.
In a 90-minute phone conversation on Monday, he asked the Russian leader to stop attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure in Ukraine, and secure major roadways, in particular the road from the south of Kyiv.
“We are not at war with Russia,” Macron said.
“We are aware of everything that links us to this great European people, the Russian people who sacrificed so much in World War II.”
He also reached out to Russians who had protested against the war in Ukraine, hundreds of whom have been arrested.
“We are today by the side of all Russians who refuse that an unworthy war should be waged in their name and have the spirit of responsibility and the courage to defend peace.”
But Macron also hailed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who has remained in Kyiv despite the bombardment as “the face of honour, of liberty and of bravery”.
Macron said that Europe had entered a “new era” with the invasion, and would need to boost investment in its defences and energy independence.
He said the war was a throwback to “another age” and motivated by a “revisionist spirit” that was reminiscent of “the darkest hours of empires past”.
Nobody in Europe had wanted war, Macron said. Instead, he said, “Putin, alone and deliberately, chose this war”.
Macron confirmed that he would on March 10 and 11 host a summit of EU leaders at the Chateau of Versailles outside Paris which would be devoted to European energy independence and European defence.
“Our European defence needs to pass a new stage…. We can no longer depend on others and notably on Russian gas to move around, heat ourselves up and make our factories work,” Macron said.
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