Emmanuel Macron used a trip to visit French troops in Romania on Wednesday to look forward to a day when Ukraine had won the war against Russia and Kyiv's leaders were in a position to hold talks with the Kremlin on a settlement.
“At a given point in time when we will have helped the Ukrainian people to resist as much as possible, when Ukraine will have won and the fighting will have stopped we must negotiate,” he said. “The Ukrainian president and other leaders must negotiate with Russia. As Europeans will be sitting at this table, making sure there are security guarantees because it's our continent. That's the reality.”
The French leader is thought to be preparing for his first visit to Ukraine, alongside German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and other European leaders, possibly as soon as Thursday. Mr Macron was scalded by a backlash from President Volodymyr Zelenskyy after he warned last week against the humiliation of Russia and called for “exit ramps” to aid the Kremlin out of the conflict.
The French insist that their country is at the forefront of efforts to sanction Russia and provides military aid including howitzers to Ukraine. Mr Macron underlined the point on Tuesday. 'We will do everything to stop Russia's war forces, to help the Ukrainians and their army and continue to negotiate,” he said. “Russia is a big power and we don’t want to start a war with the Russian people, but for Ukraine to win and the war to end we need to negotiate.”
Aides to Mr Zelenskyy have warned of a move to humiliate Ukraine via a Minsk III process in which France, Germany and Russia revive the existing negotiations process with the Kremlin holding a bigger slice of the country.
The pressure of the conflict on global energy and food markets is raising the pressure from some world leaders for a move to draw a line on the war. President Joe Biden called for temporary silos to be built along the border with Ukraine in a bid to help export more grain and address the growing global food crisis.
Poland's agriculture minister said the construction of facilities on his side of the border could take up to four months, with more than 20 million tonnes of grains stuck in Ukraine's silos and a new crop now being harvested.
Russia, meanwhile, has further tightened its grip on European energy markets as it curbed gas shipments via the key Nord Stream pipeline, reducing its flow by about 60 per cent. It blamed maintenance but a senior German official said it was probably politically motivated. One of the US's main liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals supplying Europe has been taken offline for three months by a storm.
Another key player in the conflict, Turkey said it had no reason to drop its opposition to Sweden and Finland joining Nato after the war. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said enlargement of the bloc stood little chance of getting under way by the time of a summit meeting in Madrid this month.
“We will certainly not change our stance on the Nato issue until Sweden and Finland take clear, concrete and decisive steps in the fight against terrorism,” Mr Erdogan told his nation's parliament.
Jens Stoltenberg, the military alliance’s Secretary General, said more must be given to the defenders of Ukraine — soldiers and civilians — to fight effectively. He said Nato members had agreed lists of equipment for Ukraine studio.
“[Ukrainians] need to be prepped for the long haul, as there is no way to predict how and when this war will end,” he said.
"I expect that at the summit Nato allies will agree a comprehensive assistance package for Ukraine, helping Ukraine for the longer term to transition from Soviet ear equipment to modern equipment and to improve interoperability with Nato," he said
Washington was preparing on Wednesday to announce a new $650 million package of weapons and equipment for Ukraine, including for the first time vehicle-mounted Harpoon anti-ship missiles. .
Russia offered to evacuate civilians sheltering at a chemical plant in the eastern city of Severodonetsk as it seeks to complete its takeover of a strategic point of the salient around the Donets river.
About 500 civilians are holed up in the Azot chemical plant, alongside Ukrainian fighters defending one of the last pockets of resistance in the city to Russian forces.
The Russian defence ministry said it would take the evacuees to a part of the Luhansk region held by pro-Moscow separatists, and criticised Kyiv for keeping civilians in harms way by not surrendering.
Ukraine has yet to respond to the evacuation plan which comes after Russian forces destroyed the last bridge over the river.