Russia must not be “humiliated”, says France

June 5, 2022 - 17:30

French President Emmanuel Macron says it is vital that Russia is not humiliated so that a diplomatic solution can be found when the fighting in Ukraine comes to an end.

Speaking in an interview with regional newspapers, Macron stressed that he is “convinced that it is France's role to be a mediating power."

He reiterated that “we must not humiliate Russia so that the day the fighting stops, we can build a way out through diplomatic channels.”

Paris has sought to maintain talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin since Moscow’s military operation began in February. 

Asked if he is planning to travel to the conflict zone soon he said “I went there in February to try to avoid war. Today, I'm not ruling anything out.”

On the subject of neighboring countries in the region joining NATO at the risk of escalating the conflict, the French president warned that a wider escalation in hostilities had to be avoided. 

Macron noted “the situation is worrying, it is true. That's why I put so much time and energy into it.”

He also recounted the number of times he has held dialogue with his Russian counterpart, adding they were “at the request of” Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky. 

Macron has been regularly calling for a ceasefire to the conflict, especially at the end of last month during an 80-minute trilateral phone call with the Russian leader and the German chancellor, Olaf Scholz.

Some reports have emerged suggesting that France wants Ukraine to make concessions to secure a peace agreement, but the Elysee Palace says any peace deal must be negotiated between Moscow and Kyiv, showing “due respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.”

The conflict has now passed it’s 100th day with no major signs of an end to the fighting amid heavy battles in the eastern city of Sievierodonetsk. 

France’s position is in stark contrast to the United States which hasn’t called or taken any action to end the fighting despite the vast losses of Ukrainian soldiers over the past week. 

Washington is spearheading the arms supplies to a war zone without urging dialogue between Ukraine and Russia.
European countries including France have also sent weapons to Ukraine albeit not at the same military budget of Washington. 

Germany which previously refused to send any weapons has changed its position after coming under pressure. Reports have cited the Ukrainian parliament’s chairman, Ruslan Stefanchuk, as saying Berlin may provide Kyiv with submarines. 
The Ukrainian official made the remarks during a visit to Germany.

Ukraine has at times expressed frustration for not receiving more advanced and sophisticated weapons. Until recently, the west has declined Ukraine’s calls and refrained from sending long-range missile systems.

That changed on Tuesday when the Biden administration announced it would send advanced longer-range rocket systems to Ukraine for the first time.

White House officials are worried that any Ukrainian strikes into Russian territory with American-made missiles could expand the conflict and draw the U.S. into it.

However, according to the secretary of state Antony Blinken, Washington has received assurances that Ukraine will not use the missile systems to attack targets inside Russia.

The Kremlin has warned that any delivery of missiles that can target Russian territory will result in a conflict involving a third party. 

The pouring of arms comes despite President Zelensky revealing that his country is losing as many as 100 soldiers a day as the Russian military advances in the eastern Donbas region, where street-by-street fighting is being reported in some areas.

“The most difficult situation is in the east of Ukraine and southern Donetsk and Luhansk,” Zelensky said.

“The situation is very difficult; we’re losing 60 to 100 soldiers per day as killed in action and something around 500 people as wounded in action. So we are holding our defensive perimeters,” he added

In addition to the soldiers deaths, Ukrainians have suffered immensely with millions fleeing the country and finding refuge in neighboring countries. 

Meanwhile, the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden has once again blamed Russia for the rise in food and petrol prices as well as inflation in the Western countries.

On Friday Biden said, “this is a Putin price hike.” It’s not the first time the U.S. President has made that statement.

Observers have said the White House is trying to deflect blame for the economic crisis in America and Biden’s plummeting popularity ratings with the mid-term elections on the horizon. 

Experts have noted that inflation was already skyrocketing before the military operation in Ukraine started. 

The conflict between the two countries both of whom are big exporters of agricultural products has added to the global markets’ disruption of grain and vegetable oil.

That has pushed up prices and food shortages. Ukraine accounts for about ten percent of the international wheat trade. 

The Kremlin has blamed the food supply crisis on western sanctions.

Meanwhile, the African Union Chief and Senegalese President, Macky Sall, says he has been “reassured” after holding a meeting on Friday with Putin at his Black Sea residence in Sochi over the global food shortages.

In addition to global food shortages, other topics were also discussed between the two leaders including grain supplies that are stuck in Ukrainian ports.

Speaking to reporters after meeting the Russian leader Sall said “I found Vladimir Putin committed and aware that the crisis and sanctions create serious problems for weak economies, such as African economies,” adding that he was “very reassured and very happy with our exchanges”.

In a televised interview, Putin accused the west of “bluster” by claiming Moscow was preventing grain exports from Ukraine.

“There is no problem to export grain from Ukraine,” he said, proposing several possible routes.

Putin said Russia would guarantee the safe passage of cargo ships that came to transport grain from Ukrainian ports “without conditions”, but denied Moscow was responsible for the blockade.

“The problem of exporting grain from Ukraine does not exist,” he said. 

Putin said that exports could transit through the Russian-controlled ports of Mariupol and Berdyansk, or the Ukrainian-held port of Odesa as long as Ukraine “cleared” the waters around it of mines. 

The global prices for grain have fallen to April levels following Putin’s pledge to ensure the safe export of Ukrainian grain through Black Sea ports. 

The Russian leader added that other options include the Danube River via Romania, Hungary, or Poland.

“But the simplest, the easiest, the cheapest would be exported via Belarus, from there one can go to Baltic ports, then to the Baltic Sea, and then anywhere in the world.”

But Putin said any export via Belarus would be conditional on the “lifting of sanctions” by the west against Minsk.

Last week, the EU imposed its sixth round of sanctions on Moscow targeting Russian oil.

The European Commissioner for Economy Paolo Gentiloni has acknowledged any further sanctions on Russia will not include a ban on Moscow's gas exports. 

Elsewhere, the Nato Secretary-General, Jens Stoltenberg, said he had spoken to Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Finland’s prime minister, Sanna Marin, in his efforts to deal with Ankara’s objection to Finland and Sweden joining the military alliance.

Turkey accuses the two Nordic countries of supporting groups Ankara views as terrorists.

Erdogan’s office said the president had emphasized that Sweden and Finland should “make it clear that they have stopped supporting terrorism”, lift defense export restrictions placed on Turkey, and be “ready to show alliance solidarity.”

All NATO members must vote unanimously for a new member to join the U.S-led military alliance and so far Turkey has refused to do so much to the frustration of Helsinki and Stockholm.

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