Emmanuel Macron condemns Polish PM over criticism of talks with Putin

French president describes criticism as ‘baseless and scandalous’

Emmanuel Macron has defended what he says were his attempts to secure peace with Russian President Vladimir Putin. AP

President Emmanuel Macron has condemned Poland's prime minister over his criticism of the French leader's repeated talks with Russia's Vladimir Putin.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki had questioned Mr Macron's hours of phone calls with Mr Putin, whom he likened to Hitler, and suggested they had achieved nothing.

"These statements are both baseless and scandalous," Mr Macron told French television channel TF1 on Wednesday evening, amid mounting fears that Mr Morawiecki's remarks could undermine EU unity during the bloc's face-off with Moscow over Ukraine.

He said the Polish leader was from a "far-right party" and was "supporting" his rival Marine Le Pen in France's presidential election this month.

"I take full responsibility for having spoken to the president of Russia, in the name of France, to avoid the war and to build a new architecture for peace in Europe several years ago," Mr Macron said.

"I did it from the beginning of my term in office. I was never naive, unlike others. I was never complicit, unlike others."

Mr Macron has repeatedly voiced concerns over Ms Le Pen's links to Russia, highlighting how she had taken a loan from a Russian bank that her National Rally party is still repaying. Ms Le Pen, meanwhile, has been seeking to distance herself from Moscow, which she visited before the last French presidential election in 2017 to meet Mr Putin.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki was heavily criticised by French President Emmanuel Macron. EPA

She has lobbied for the European Union to drop sanctions imposed on Russia in 2014 after its annexation of the Ukrainian territory of Crimea and has expressed admiration for Mr Putin.

Also speaking to TF1, Ms Le Pen called for France to withdraw its ambassador from Moscow after the killing of Ukrainian civilians in the town of Bucha allegedly by Russian troops.

"If there is really proof, then we need to be very firm," she said.

Polls show Ms Le Pen is gaining ground fast on Mr Macron before the first round of voting on Sunday.

Mr Macron's investment in diplomatic talks with Mr Putin saw him surge in the polls in March, but he has since fallen back in a campaign increasingly focused on rising inflation.

In her interview on Wednesday night, Ms Le Pen repeated her pledge to slash taxes on fuel and essential foods, while promising to ban the Muslim headscarf in all public spaces.

The Eurosceptic nationalist also said she would refuse to stand in front of an EU flag for her official portrait if elected president because "my job is not to be governor of a European region".

Mr Morawiecki had criticised several European leaders, including Mr Macron. "How many times have you negotiated with Putin and what have you achieved?" he asked of the French leader.

"We do not discuss, we do not negotiate with criminals. Criminals have to be fought against.

"Nobody negotiated with Hitler. Would you negotiate with Hitler, with Stalin, with Pol Pot?"

Mr Morawiecki also called for new Western sanctions on Russia and compared Mr Putin to dictators from the past.

Updated: April 07, 2022, 9:15 AM
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