France's Macron declares Ukraine crisis at pivotal moment

President expects days of heated diplomacy over Russia's military manoeuvres

French President Emmanuel Macron has said he cannot devote himself to a re-election bid while the Ukraine crisis is at its height. EPA
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The crisis in Ukraine is at a decisive moment with days of heated diplomacy lying ahead, French President Emmanuel Macron has revealed ahead of a new round of shuttle diplomacy.

Mr Macron said the stand-off linked to Russia’s troop movements near Ukraine was “threatening our collective security” amid fears of war in Eastern Europe.

His remarks were aimed at domestic voters, whom he is keeping in suspense by refusing to confirm whether he will seek re-election in April.

He said the severity of the Ukraine crisis meant the public would expect him to focus on this before he turns his attention to his own electoral prospects.

“The hours we are living through are decisive ones for the security of the whole region,” he told the newspaper La Voix Du Nord.

Russia and the US both “believe that the coming days will be days of extreme incandescence,” he said. “As long as dialogue is there, we have to keep it going.”

France, like its neighbour Germany, has stressed dialogue as a way of resolving the stand-off, which stems from the build-up of more than 100,000 Russian troops on its border with Ukraine.

Paris hosted four-way talks last week between France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine, a group known as the Normandy format.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson was meanwhile visiting Ukraine, where he said a Russian invasion would be a political and humanitarian disaster.

The US and Nato separately delivered written proposals to Russia, which were later leaked to Spanish media, in response to Moscow’s calls for new treaties.

Mr Macron said he might travel to Germany this week for talks with Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Polish President Andrzej Duda.

The Kremlin has also floated the idea of a Macron-Putin summit after the two leaders held two telephone calls in four days to discuss the crisis.

A French government spokesman said a visit by Mr Macron to Moscow was not yet planned, but was not ruled out.

Mr Macron also cited the spike in Omicron coronavirus cases as a reason why he could not yet devote his attention to the election.

France’s infection rate is extremely high with more than two million cases being reported a week, although numbers have fallen in recent days.

Updated: February 02, 2022, 12:33 PM