Russia-Ukraine crisis: France's Emmanuel Macron criticises Putin's 'moral cynicism'

French President said situation was worsening by the day and full ceasefires were needed

French president Emmanuel Macron addresses his supporters during the first rally of his Presidential campaign held after the announcement of his candidacy in the upcoming French Presidential elections in Poissy, near Paris, France, 07 March 2022. EPA
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French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday accused Russian leader Vladimir Putin of hypocrisy and cynicism after Moscow announced humanitarian corridors to move civilians from Ukrainian cities, but only to Russia or Belarus.

"All this is not serious. It is moral and political cynicism, which I find intolerable," Mr Macron told LCI television.

Promises to protect civilians only so they could flee towards Russia were "hypocritical", he said,.

"I do not know many Ukrainians who want to go to Russia," Mr Macron said, adding that full ceasefires to protect civilians were needed, rather than corridors.

Moscow announced the proposed escape routes from Kharkiv, Kyiv, Mariupol and Sumy after Mr Putin and Mr Macron spoke by phone on Sunday, saying the move was taken after a "personal request" by the French president.

But the Elysee Palace said no such request had been made and Mr Macron described Moscow's announcement as a "PR stunt".

The situation was worsening by the day, he warned.

A top priority was to avoid "catastrophes" with Ukraine's nuclear power plants after Europe's largest such plant Zaporizhzhia was attacked and seized by invading Russian forces last week.

There are four active nuclear plants in the country as well as the Chernobyl plant, which was the site of the 1986 nuclear disaster.

But Mr Macron also insisted that "France is not at war with Russia", and that "what we want is to stop this war without becoming belligerents ourselves".

He spoke to Mr Putin on Sunday for an hour and 45 minutes, in the fourth time they had spoken since the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24.

Russia would reach its objectives in Ukraine "either through negotiation or through war", Mr Putin told Mr Macron, according to a French presidential official.

The official said Mr Putin also pledged "it was not his intention" to attack Ukrainian nuclear sites.

Later on Monday, Russia announced a ceasefire in Ukrainian cities including Kyiv, Mariupol and Sumy from 7am GMT on Tuesday, so civilians could be evacuated to Russia or other parts of Ukraine through humanitarian corridors.

But later on Monday, Mr Macron said it was unlikely that Russia and Ukraine would be able to find a way to end the war in the days and weeks ahead.

"In the short term ... the war is going to continue to be waged," he said during a visit to Poissy, not far from Paris.

"I don't think that, in the coming days and weeks, there will be a real negotiated solution.

"Talks are difficult with Putin because he refuses a ceasefire," which was a condition for any real talks between Russia and Ukraine, Mr Macron said.

"Our responsibility" was to keep talking to the Russian and Belarusian people, as well as their leaders, and to "always respect Russia as a country" if there was to be any lasting peace.

"We are all full of admiration for the resistance of the Ukrainian people, their leaders and their president," he said.

Mr Macron said France would play its part in welcoming Ukrainians fleeing the war, and might also take steps to help relieve the pressure from Ukraine's neighbour Moldova, which has taken in more than 80,000 refugees.

Updated: March 08, 2022, 4:00 AM