Zelenskyy invites France’s Macron to see ‘genocide’ evidence in Ukraine

The Ukrainian president said he hoped his French and US counterparts would visit his country

French President Emmanuel Macron and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine pose during a meeting in Kyiv on February 8, 2022. Ukrainian Presidential Press Service via AFP
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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he has invited his French counterpart to visit Ukraine to see for himself evidence that Russian forces have committed “genocide”, a term President Emmanuel Macron has avoided.

“I talked to him yesterday,” Mr Zelenskyy told CNN in an interview recorded on Friday but broadcast on Sunday.

“I just told him I want him to understand that this is not war, but nothing other than genocide. I invited him to come when he will have the opportunity. He’ll come and see, and I’m sure he will understand.”

Mr Zelenskyy said he also thought US President Joe Biden would come at some point, though White House officials have said there are no plans for him to do so.

The Ukrainian leader said he believed Mr Macron was shying away from using the term “genocide”, which Mr Biden has now used regarding the war in Ukraine – because he thinks it would hurt his chances for diplomatic engagement with Russia.

The Ukrainian president said earlier that the French President’s refusal to use the designation was “very painful for us”.

Mr Macron is in the heat of an election campaign, with a second-round vote against far-right politician Marine Le Pen set for next Sunday.

He told France’s Radio Bleu on Thursday that it was not helpful to Ukraine “to enter into verbal escalations without drawing all of the conclusions”.

“The word ‘genocide’ has a meaning” and “needs to be characterised legally, not by politicians”, Mr Macron said.

Mr Zelenskyy, in his CNN interview, said he would also like Mr Biden to visit Ukraine.

A growing list of European leaders have made their way to Kyiv in shows of support, including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

After Mr Johnson visited the devastated Ukrainian town of Bucha, where officials say scores of civilians were “simply shot in the streets”, he said evidence of a massacre by Russian troops “doesn’t look far short of genocide to me”.

Boris Johnson and Volodymyr Zelenskyy take a walk in central Kyiv

In this image provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, center, and Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, center left, walk in downtown Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, April 9, 2022.  (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

Regarding a possible visit by Mr Biden, Mr Zelenskyy said: “I think he will” come, “but it’s his decision, of course, and about the safety situation. It depends.”

“But, I think, he’s the leader of the United States and that’s why he should come here to see.”

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba praised Mr Biden’s backing for Kyiv. In an interview broadcast Sunday on CBS he said a visit by the US leader would “be an important message of support”.

“A personal meeting between two presidents could also pave the way for new supplies and of ... US weapons to Ukraine and also for discussions on the possible political settlement of this conflict,” he said.

US officials say they are considering sending an emissary to Kyiv, but for now have ruled out a high-risk visit by 79-year-old President Biden himself.

Updated: April 17, 2022, 9:29 PM