Johnson Showed ‘Lots Of Enthusiasm’ On Wider European Community Idea – Macron Office

A file photo: French President Emmanuel Macron (Photo by GONZALO FUENTES / POOL / AFP)

 

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson showed interest in France’s idea of creating a wider European political community beyond the EU during talks between the two countries’ leaders on Sunday, the French presidency said.

France’s President Emmanuel Macron saw “lots of enthusiasm” from his British counterpart who oversaw his country leaving the EU, when he spoke about the idea, a spokesman said.

The broader community could allow Britain to “reengage” with the bloc, he added.

More to follow…

France’s Macron Congratulates Queen Elizabeth II On Jubilee

French President Emmanuel Macron reviews the troops during a national homage to late French actor Michel Bouquet at the Hotel des Invalides in Paris on April 27, 2022. (Photo by Francois Mori / POOL / AFP)

 

 

French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday congratulated Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II on her platinum jubilee, calling her “the golden thread that binds our two countries” going back to World War II.

“During the past seventy years, the President of the French Republic has relied on very few constants… your devotion to our alliance and to our friendship has remained,” Macron said in English in a video message to the queen.

He recalled “the dark days when your family welcomed General de Gaulle in your home” during World War II, when the leader of the Free French and later founding president of France’s Fifth Republic took refuge in London from the Nazi German occupation.

Since then, in “a lifetime of devotion to our alliance”, the queen had “shared our joys, and seen the deep affection and admiration that the people of France have for you,” Macron said.

Switching to French — in which the queen is fluent — the recently re-elected leader told the monarch that “celebrating you today is celebrating the sincere and deep friendship which unites our two countries”.

While Britain and France are close allies, ties have been strained since the UK’s departure from the European Union in 2020.

The two governments have been at odds over issues like London’s post-Brexit trading relationship with its neighbours and regular attempts by migrants to cross from France to the UK in small boats.

Most recently, there has been anger in Britain at the treatment of Liverpool football fans at Saturday’s Champions League final in Paris, with French ministers blaming unruly supporters for chaos that saw some of them tear-gassed by police.

France’s Macron Targeted By Tomatoes On First Post-Election Trip

French President Emmanuel Macron waves from his car as he leaves after a visit at the Saint-Christophe market square in Cergy, Paris suburb, on April 27, 2022, during his first trip after being re-elected president. (Photo by BENOIT TESSIER / POOL / AFP)

 

 

French President Emmanuel Macron was the target Wednesday of a bunch of tomatoes hurled by a disgruntled onlooker as he made his first public appearance after his weekend re-election victory. 

Macron has spent the last days secluded in an out-of-town residence and then the Elysee Palace, considering the formation of a new government following his defeat of far-right leader Marine Le Pen on Sunday.

But reflecting his promise of uniting a divided France, he chose for his first post-election visit the French town of Cergy-Pointoise in the Paris suburbs, a low-income area where far-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon came out on top in the first round of voting on April 10.

Macron was meeting residents when a bunch of cherry tomatoes whizzed by close to his face, missing him but hitting bystanders.

His security detail moved swiftly, shouting “projectile! projectile!” and covering Macron’s head with their hands before protecting him with a black umbrella.

Macron appeared unflustered but keen to move on as rapidly as possible. “No! No! No fighting,” he could be heard saying.

While the incident was minor, it was a reminder of the challenges of fully protecting a president who is fond of immersing himself into crowds even in areas that can be hostile to him.

In June 2021, he was slapped in the face by a man while greeting locals on another trip.

Elysee officials emphasised that the visit to Cergy-Pointoise had been marked by a good atmosphere, with an intense crush caused by people trying to get as close as possible to the president.

“In the poorest neighbourhoods, whether in cities or rural areas, we really need to create the conditions for real and effective equality of opportunity,” Macron said during the visit.

“It is the only way to get rid of this distrust… and sense of abandonment,” he said.

 

French President Emmanuel Macron reviews the troops during a national homage to late French actor Michel Bouquet at the Hotel des Invalides in Paris on April 27, 2022.  (Photo by Francois Mori / POOL / AFP)

 

France’s Constitutional Council is due to certify the results of the election later Wednesday, paving the way for Macron’s second term to start next month.

With an eye on parliament elections in June, Macron is expected in the coming days to name a new prime minister and government but has offered few clues on who he may be considering.

“I will appoint someone who is committed to social and environmental issues and is productive,” he said as speculation whirls that a woman could head the government for the first time since Edith Cresson in 1991.

World Leaders Welcome Macron’s Re-Election

French President and La Republique en Marche (LREM) party candidate for re-election Emmanuel Macron (R) holds his fist in the air as he holds Brigitte Macron’s hand after his victory in France’s presidential election, at the Champ de Mars in Paris, on April 24, 2022.
Ludovic MARIN / AFP

 

World leaders rushed to congratulate France’s centrist President Emmanuel Macron on his re-election and defeat of far-right leader Marine Le Pen in elections Sunday.

Here are some of the main reactions:

– European Union –

 


YVES HERMAN / POOL / AFP

 

“I am delighted to be able to continue our excellent cooperation,” tweeted European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

“We can count on France for five more years,” European Council President Charles Michel wrote on Twitter.

 

– United States –

US President Joe Biden announces a ban on US imports of Russian oil and gas, March 8, 2022, from the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, DC. Jim WATSON / AFP
US President Joe Biden announces a ban on US imports of Russian oil and gas, March 8, 2022, from the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, DC. Jim WATSON / AFP

 

“France is our oldest ally and a key partner in addressing global challenges,” US President Joe Biden tweeted. “I look forward to our continued close cooperation — including supporting Ukraine, defending democracy, and countering climate change.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken also congratulated Macron.

“We look forward to continuing close cooperation with France on global challenges, underpinning our long and enduring Alliance and friendship,” he wrote.

READ ALSO: Macron Defeats Le Pen In French Election

– Germany –


Sergei SUPINSKY / AFP

Chancellor Olaf Scholz said French voters “have sent a strong vote of confidence in Europe today. I am happy that we will continue our good cooperation”.

 

– Britain –

. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP)

 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson called France “one of our closest and most important allies” and said he looked forward “to continuing to work together on the issues which matter most to our two countries and to the world”.

 

– Ukraine –

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky delivers a speech during a press conference with Denmark's and Spain's Prime Ministers in Kyiv on April 21, 2022. Genya SAVILOV / AFP

Genya SAVILOV / AFP

President Volodymyr Zelensky, who has spoken with Macron several times since Russia’s invasion on February 24, called Macron a “true friend of Ukraine.”

“I wish him further success for the sake of the (French) people. I appreciate his support and I am convinced that we are moving together towards new common victories,” he wrote in both Ukrainian and French.

 

– Russia –

Photo of Vladimir Putin/AFP

Russian President Vladimir Putin wrote in a telegram: “I sincerely wish you success in your state activities, as well as good health and well-being,” according to a statement from the Kremlin.

– China –

(Photo by AFP) / TO GO WITH Tennis-CHN-China-politics-Zhang,PROFILE by Patrick BAERT

 

China President Xi Jinping said he would “like to continue working with President Macron to maintain diplomatic relations based on independence, mutual understanding, foresight and mutual benefit,” according to a readout from state broadcaster CCTV.

 

– Australia –

IGary Ramage / POOL / AFP

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Macron’s victory was a “great expression of liberal democracy in action in uncertain times”.

“We wish you and France every success, in particular, your leadership in Europe and as an important partner to Australia in the Indo-Pacific,” he tweeted.

In November, Macron accused his Australian counterpart of lying over a multibillion-dollar submarine contract that Canberra scrapped without warning.

 

– Canada –

. (Photo by Dave Chan / AFP)

 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was “looking forward to continuing our work together on the issues that matter most to people in Canada and France — from defending democracy to fighting climate change, to creating good jobs and economic growth for the middle class”.

– India –


Prakash SINGH / AFP

 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated his “friend” on being re-elected and said, “I look forward to continuing working together to deepen the India-France Strategic Partnership.”

– Japan –


Du Xiaoyi / POOL / AFP

 

Tweeting in French, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida wrote: “We will strengthen our close cooperation with President Macron in various areas, such as the Indo-Pacific region and the Russian aggression against Ukraine.”

 

– Italy –

Prime Minister Mario Draghi described Macron’s victory as “great news for all of Europe”.

– Spain –

(Photo by Borja Puig de la BELLACASA / LA MONCLOA / AFP) /

 

“The citizens have chosen a France committed to a free, strong and fair EU. Democracy wins. Europe wins,” tweeted socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez. “Congratulations Emmanuel Macron.”

– Belgium –

(Photo by François WALSCHAERTS / AFP)

Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said French voters had made a “strong choice”, opting for “certainty and Enlightenment values”.

 

– UN bodies –

Filippo Grandi
(Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi sent his “warm congratulations” and said his organisation would continue to count on Macron’s support on the European and world stage “as humanitarian challenges and refugee crises become more serious and complex every day”.

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he looked forward to “continuing the important partnership” with France “for a healthier, safer, fairer world”.

 

– Ireland –


Tom HONAN / POOL / AFP

Prime Minister Micheal Martin hailed Macron’s “principled and dynamic leadership” as “important not only for France but for Europe”.

 

– Switzerland –

Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

President Ignazio Cassis said he looked forward to “continuing our good collaboration,” stressing the close ties between the two neighbouring countries.

– Sweden –

Photo of Swedish Prime Minister, Magdalena Andersson

 

Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson sent her “warmest congratulations”.

“Let’s continue our close cooperation – bilaterally and for a competitive, green and resilient European Union,” she tweeted.

 

– African Union –

File photo of Moussa Faki Mahamat

 

African Union Commission chief Moussa Faki Mahamat congratulated Macron over “his brilliant re-election”, saying he hoped to continue building “mutually beneficial relations between Africa and France”.

Macron Defeats Le Pen In French Election

French President Emmanuel Macron attends a joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin (off frame) in Moscow, early on February 8, 2022. – International efforts to defuse the standoff over Ukraine intensified with French President holding talks in Moscow and German Chancellor in Washington to coordinate policies as fears of a Russian invasion mount. (Photo by Sergei GUNEYEV / SPUTNIK / AFP)

 

French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday defeated his rival Marine Le Pen in presidential elections, projections showed, prompting a wave of relief in Europe that the far-right had been prevented from taking power.

Centrist Macron was set to win 57.0-58.5 per cent of the vote compared with Le Pen on 41.5-43.0 percent, according to projections by polling firms for French television channels based on a sample of the vote count.

The result is narrower than the second-round clash in 2017, when the same two candidates met in the run-off and Macron polled over 66 percent of the vote.

The outcome, expected to be confirmed by official results overnight, caused immense relief in Europe after fears a Le Pen presidency would leave the continent rudderless following Brexit and the departure of German chancellor Angela Merkel.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi called Macron’s victory “great news for all of Europe”.

EU president Charles Michel said the bloc can now “count on France for five more years” while commission chief Ursula von der Leyen rapidly congratulated him saying she was “delighted to be able to continue our excellent cooperation”.

In a combative speech to supporters in Paris where she accepted the result but showed no sign of quitting politics, Le Pen, 53, said she would “never abandon” the French and was already preparing for June legislative elections.

“The result represents a brilliant victory,” she said to cheers.

The relatively comfortable margin of victory gives Macron some confidence as he heads into a second five-year mandate, but the election also represents the closest the far-right has ever come to winning power in France.

Macron is the first French president to win re-election since Jacques Chirac in 2002 after his predecessors Nicolas Sarkozy and Francois Hollande left office after only one term.

The 44-year-old is to make a victory speech on the Champ de Mars in central Paris at the foot of the Eiffel Tower where flag-waving supporters erupted in joy when the projections appeared at 8:00 pm local time (1800 GMT).

High Ambitions

Macron will be hoping for a less complicated second term that will allow him to implement his vision of more pro-business reform and tighter EU integration after a first term shadowed by protests, then the pandemic and finally Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

But he will have to win over those who backed his opponents and the millions of French who did not bother to vote.

On the basis of the official figures, polling organisations estimated that the abstention rate was on course for 28 percent which, if confirmed, would be the highest in any presidential election second-round run-off since 1969.

The outcome of the first round on April 10 had left Macron in a solid but not unassailable position to retain the presidency.

Convincing supporters of the hard-left third-placed candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon to hold their noses and vote for the former investment banker was a key priority for Macron in the second phase of the campaign.

Macron will also need to ensure his party finds strong grassroots support to keep control of a parliamentary majority in the legislative elections in June and avoid any awkward “cohabitation” with a premier who does not share his political views.

Bitter Pill For Le Pen

High on his to-do-list is pension reform including a raising of the French retirement age which Macron has argued is essential for the budget but is likely to run into strong opposition and protests.

He will also have to rapidly return from the campaign trail to dealing with the Russian onslaught against Ukraine, with pressure on France to step up supplies of weapons to Kyiv and signs President Vladimir Putin is losing interest in any diplomacy.

For Le Pen, her third defeat in presidential polls will be a bitter pill to swallow after she ploughed years of effort into making herself electable and distancing her party from the legacy of its founder, her father Jean-Marie Le Pen.

Critics insisted her party never stopped being extreme-right and racist while Macron repeatedly pointed to her plan to ban the wearing of the Muslim headscarf in public if elected.

When Jean-Marie Le Pen reached the second round in 2002, the result stunned France and he won less than 18 percent in the subsequent run-off against Chirac.

Macron Accuses Le Pen Of Being ‘Dependent’ On Russia

French President and LREM party candidate for re-election, Emmanuel Macron (L) and RN presidential candidate Marine, Le Pen pose prior to taking part in a live televised debate in Paris, ahead of the second round of France’s presidential election.  Ludovic MARIN / POOL / AFP

 

French President Emmanuel Macron attacked his far-right rival Marine Le Pen for her links to Russia during a televised presidential debate on Wednesday, accusing her of being “dependent” on the Kremlin.

“You are dependent on the Russian government and you are dependent on Mr Putin,” Macron said, referring to a loan agreed by Le Pen’s party with a Czech-Russian bank which he said was “close to the Russian government”.

Le Pen replied that she was “an absolutely and totally free woman” and said the loan was a “matter of public knowledge”.

“It was because no French bank wanted to give me a loan,” she replied.

The exchange was the first major clash between the two, with Macron also highlighting Le Pen’s decision to recognise Crimea as Russian after the Ukrainian territory was annexed by the Kremlin in 2014.

“Under international law, we rarely recognise… territories that have been annexed by force,” he said.

Le Pen stressed that she was in favour of all the sanctions against Moscow announced since Russian leader Vladimir Putin ordered an invasion of Ukraine on February 24, and she backed supplying arms to Ukraine.

“The aggression that Ukraine has been a victim of was unacceptable,” she said.

Le Pen created waves last week when she proposed closer ties between the Western military alliance NATO and Russia once the war in Ukraine was over.

She also reaffirmed her intention of repeating France’s 1966 move of leaving NATO’s integrated military command, while still adhering to its key article 5 on mutual protection.

Le Pen, Macron Prepare For Crunch French Election Duel

French presidential election candidate for the far-right Front National (FN) party, Marine Le Pen (L) and French presidential election candidate, Emmanuel Macron pose prior to the start of a live brodcast face-to-face televised debate in La Plaine-Saint-Denis, north of Paris, as part of the second round election campaign.  Eric Feferberg / POOL / AFP

 

French leader Emmanuel Macron and the far-right’s Marine Le Pen were preparing Tuesday for a crunch presidential election debate, with supporters of the president warning against complacency despite a solid poll lead.

Macron will go head-to-head with Le Pen late on Wednesday in their only direct clash ahead of Sunday’s second-round vote, an encounter set to be watched by millions of voters.

Some polls are predicting a lead of around 10 points for Macron over Le Pen in the run-off, a repeat of the 2017 election. But undecided voters and abstentions could yet swing the figures.

Le Pen has cleared her diary to concentrate on preparing for the debate, hoping to avoid any repeat of the fiasco five years ago, when her ill-prepared performance contributed to her defeat at the hands of Macron.

This year’s vote will mark the closest the far right has been to seize the Elysee presidential palace. Marine Le Pen’s father Jean-Marie was crushed by Jacques Chirac in the 2002 run-off election, and she was easily beaten by Macron in 2017.

The one-off live televised debate — scheduled from 1900 GMT — is a political tradition in France since 1974 when Socialist Francois Mitterrand took on centrist Valery Giscard d’Estaing.

It only failed to take place in 2002 when Chirac said the debate was impossible with “intolerance and hatred” after Jean-Marie Le Pen stunned France by making the run-off.

‘Kick in the backside’

The stakes in the election are high, with Europe watching to see if Macron wins another five years in office to work as a champion of the EU, which Le Pen has vowed to reform under a far-right presidency.

Opinion polls currently put the centrist Macron at 53 to 56 percent in the run-off against 44 to 47 percent for Le Pen — a much tighter finish than five years ago, when Macron carried the vote with 66 percent.

For Le Pen, the debate represents a final chance to haul background in the polls and convince France she has moderated her anti-immigration party into a mainstream force.

Macron is likely to seek to portray her as a dangerous extremist who cannot be trusted on foreign policy — especially after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, given her past comments of admiration toward President Vladimir Putin.

Both candidates are particularly keen to woo the electorate of hard-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon, who finished a strong third in the first round.

Le Pen was reportedly spending all Tuesday with her closest aides to rehearse the debate, having admitted previously that her performance against Macron in 2017 was not up to scratch.

“For me, failure is sometimes a kick in the backside,” she told TF1 television.

Le Monde newspaper said Le Pen would seek to show herself as a credible leader of France and also portray the election as an anti-Macron “referendum”.

She has “spent five years trying to bury that disastrous (2017) televised duel, by sprucing up her image, party and ideological tenets,” it said.

‘Either could win’

Macron has insisted that he does not see the election as being in the bag, reminding voters of the political upsets of 2016 when Britons voted to leave the EU and Americans put Donald Trump in the White House.

Key allies have made clear that nothing should be taken for granted, telling voters tempted to stay at home that they must cast their ballots.

“The game isn’t over yet and we certainly can’t draw conclusions … that this election, this match, is already decided,” Prime Minister Jean Castex told France Inter radio.

“We have to convince the French that Emmanuel Macron’s programmes are the best for France and for them,” he said. He added that if Macron won, his government would resign to give the ruling party new impetus ahead of legislative elections in June.

Castex’s predecessor as prime minister, Edouard Philippe, mayor of the northern city of Le Havre and a heavyweight center-right backer of Macron, said nothing could be taken for granted due to the numerous “unknowns” hanging over the election and, above all, abstentions.

He told Le Figaro newspaper on Monday that the so-called Republican front — which in past elections had seen French of all political stripes line up against the far-right — “was no longer a natural reflex”.

“Right now, either candidate could win,” added another ally, Francois Bayrou, the leader of the pro-Macron Modem party.

AFP

Macron Seeks Second Term In French Election Next Month

A file photo of French President Emmanuel Macron (Photo by Sergei GUNEYEV / SPUTNIK / AFP)

 

French President Emmanuel Macron announced Thursday that he will seek a second term in office at elections next month, with Russia’s war in Ukraine likely to eclipse the campaign but boost his chances.

Macron formally announced his attempt to become the first French president to be re-elected in 20 years in a letter to the French people published online by numerous news sites.

There was little suspense about the 44-year-old’s intentions, but the announcement has been repeatedly delayed because of the crisis in eastern Europe that has seen Macron take a prominent role in diplomatic talks.

Read Also: Macron Fears ‘Worst To Come’ After Call With Putin

“I’m a candidate to invent, with you, and faced with the challenges of this century, a singular French and European response,” he said.

“I am a candidate to defend our values that are threatened by the disruptions of the world,” he added.

Macron acknowledged that the election would not be a normal one due to Russia’s war on Ukraine.

“Of course, I will not be able to campaign as I would have liked because of the context,” he said, while vowing to “explain our project with clarity and commitment”.

Ahead of Friday’s deadline for candidates to stand, polls widely show him as the frontrunner in the two-round election on April 10 and 24, with the war focusing attention on foreign policy rather than the domestic issues favoured by his opponents.

“In a crisis, citizens always get behind the flag and line up behind the head of state,” said Antoine Bristielle, a public opinion expert at the Jean-Jaures Foundation, a Paris think-tank.

“The other candidates are inaudible. In every media, all anyone is talking about is the invasion,” he told AFP.

One ruling party MP told AFP this week the Ukraine crisis meant that Macron’s rivals were “boxing on their own”, while several polls have shown his personal ratings rising.

The former investment banker admitted in a national address on Wednesday night that the crisis had “hit our democratic life and the election campaign” but promised “an important democratic debate for the country” would take place.

Voter surveys currently tip the centrist to win the first round of the election with 26 percent and then triumph in the April 24 run-off irrespective of his opponent.

Rivals

After five tumultuous years in office, Macron’s biggest challenge comes from opponents on his right who accuse him of being lax on immigration, soft on crime and slow to defend French culture.

These include the conservative Valerie Pecresse from the Republican party, far-right candidate Marine Le Pen and anti-Islam media pundit Eric Zemmour.

On the left, four mainstream candidates are competing, which is expected to split the vote and lead to all of them being eliminated in the first round.

Socialist Party candidate Anne Hidalgo said the announcement was “not a surprise.”

“The Democratic debate, of one programme versus another that I have been calling for months, can finally take place,” she said in a statement.

Macron’s camp has been looking for the right moment to launch his candidacy since early February, but the Ukraine crisis has seen his agenda filled with either foreign trips or talks with other leaders.

He spoke for the third time in a week to Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday and again with Ukrainian counterpart President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Striking a note of humility, Macron added in his letter that “we have not got everything right”.

“There are choices that after the experience I gained with you I would have no doubt made differently,” he said.

A recent poll by the Elabe group, published March 1, showed that confidence in Macron’s “ability to tackle the main problems of the country” was up a massive five points in a month.

Another by the Harris Interactive group showed 58 per cent of French people held a favourable view of his handling of the Ukraine crisis

Allies of the president are quietly confident, but analysts warn that many voters remain undecided and that sentiment can swing sharply in the final weeks of campaigning.

Russia To Continue ‘Uncompromising Fight’ Against Ukraine, Putin Tells Macron

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with the head of Russia’s Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, a big business lobby group, at the Kremlin in Moscow on March 2, 2022. Mikhail Klimentyev / SPUTNIK / AFP

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin vowed no let-up in his invasion of Ukraine on Thursday, even as the warring sides met for ceasefire talks and Kyiv demanded safe passage for besieged civilians.

After the fall of a first major Ukrainian city to Russian forces, Putin appeared in no mood to heed a global clamour for hostilities to end as the war entered its second week.

“Russia intends to continue the uncompromising fight against militants of nationalist armed groups,” Putin said, according to a Kremlin account of a call with French President Emmanuel Macron.

Russian armoured columns from Crimea pushed deep into the southern Ukrainian region of Kherson on the first day of their invasion Thursday, triggering fighting that left at least 13 civilians dead.

Nine Ukrainian soldiers were also killed, the Kherson regional administration said, as the Russian force seized crossing points from Crimea to the mainland and a crossing over the Dnipro river.

But Ukraine insisted on the need for humanitarian corridors, to get urgent supplies into cities and trapped civilians out, as negotiators met at an undisclosed location on the Belarus-Poland border.

They shook hands across a table at the meeting’s start, the Ukrainian delegates in military khaki clothing and the Russians in more formal business suits

A first round of talks on Monday yielded no breakthrough, and Kyiv says it will not accept any Russian “ultimatums”.

Putin, however, said any attempts to slow the talks process would “only lead to additional demands on Kyiv in our negotiating position”.

Macron said he feared that “worse is to come” in the conflict and condemned Putin’s “lies”, according to an aide.

The invasion, now in its eighth day, has created a refugee exodus and turned Russia into a global pariah in the worlds of finance, diplomacy and sports.

The UN has opened a probe into alleged war crimes, as the Russian military bombards cities in Ukraine with shells and missiles, forcing civilians to cower in basements.

“We will restore every house, every street, every city and we say to Russia: learn the word ‘reparations’,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video statement.

“You will reimburse us for everything you did against our state, against every Ukrainian, in full,” he said.

‘Just like Leningrad’

Zelensky claims thousands of Russian soldiers have been killed since Putin shocked the world by invading Ukraine, purportedly to demilitarise and “de-Nazify” a Western-leaning threat on his borders.

Moscow said Wednesday that it has lost 498 troops, and Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin praised their sacrifice.

“Their exploits will enter into the history books, their exploits in the struggle against the Nazis,” Peskov told reporters.

The Kremlin has been condemned for likening the government of Zelensky, who is Jewish, to that of Germany in World War II.

But Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov kept up the verbal barrage, accusing Western politicians of fixating on “nuclear war” after Putin placed his strategic forces on high alert.

While a long military column appears stalled north of Ukraine’s capital Kyiv, Russian troops seized Kherson, a Black Sea city of 290,000 people, after a three-day siege that left it short of food and medicine.

Russian troops are also besieging the port city of Mariupol east of Kherson, which is without water or electricity in the depths of winter.

“They are trying to create a blockade here, just like in Leningrad,” Mariupol mayor Vadym Boichenko said, referring to the brutal Nazi siege of Russia’s second city, now re-named Saint Petersburg.

Ukrainian authorities said residential and other areas in the eastern city of Kharkiv had been “pounded all night” by indiscriminate shelling, which UN prosecutors are investigating as a possible war crime.

Oleg Rubak’s wife Katia, 29, was crushed in the rubble of their family home in Zhytomyr, west of Kyiv, by a Russian missile strike.

“One minute I saw her going into the bedroom. A minute later there was nothing,” Rubak, 32, told AFP amid the ruins in the bitter winter chill.

“I hope she’s in heaven and all is perfect for her,” he said, adding through tears, “I want the whole world to hear my story.”

-AFP

Military Aid Will Not Stop Russian Invasion Of Ukraine – Macron’s Advisers

French President Emmanuel Macron at a joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin (off frame) in Moscow, early on February 8, 2022. Sergei GUNEYEV / SPUTNIK / AFP)

 

 

Delivering military aid to Ukraine will not allow Kyiv to resist a Russian invasion and diplomacy is the solution to the crisis, French President Emmanuel Macron’s advisers said on Wednesday.

Macron was due to speak with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky Wednesday before travelling to Brussels for an emergency EU summit on Thursday to agree on sanctions if Moscow launches an all-out assault on its neighbour.

A virtual meeting of the G7 group of leading democracies is also scheduled for Thursday.

Read Also: Ukraine Mobilises Reserves As Moscow Doubles Down On Demands

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday decided to recognise the independence of Ukraine’s breakaway republics of Donetsk and Lugansk, sharply escalating the diplomatic stand-off and triggering international condemnation and sanctions.

Ukraine has received substantial military backing from NATO members, including anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles and helmets, as the West accused Moscow of massing up to 150,000 troops on the border.

But Macron’s advisers said diplomacy was the answer in the face of Russian firepower.

“Taking into account the power balance, deliveries of military equipment would not allow Ukraine to stand up to Russia,” Macron’s advisers said.

“The solution is through diplomacy” and trying to “deter” Russia, they added.

The statement from the French president’s office Wednesday warned it was “very possible, very plausible” that the crisis would develop further after Putin’s recognition of Donetsk and Lugansk’s independence.

It added that Putin may also test the West’s resolve in the Balkans, Bosnia, Transnistria in Moldova and the Caucasus.

“We want each of these countries to be aware that there are choices to make, that partnership with the EU necessitates clarity,” the Elysee said.

Macron Heads To Moscow In Bid To Ease Ukraine Tensions

Diplomatic cars wait in front of the residence of French ambassador in Moscow on February 7, 2022, prior to the visit of French President to meet his Russian counterpart. Natalia KOLESNIKOVA / AFP
Diplomatic cars wait in front of the residence of French ambassador in Moscow on February 7, 2022, prior to the visit of French President to meet his Russian counterpart. Natalia KOLESNIKOVA / AFP

 

French President Emmanuel Macron heads to Moscow on Monday hoping to reach a deal with Vladimir Putin over Ukraine, at the start of a week of intense diplomacy over fears Russia is preparing an invasion of its pro-Western neighbour.

With tens of thousands of Russian troops camped on the border with Ukraine, Macron will be the first top Western leader to meet with Putin since the crisis kicked off in December.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will also meet Monday with US President Joe Biden in Washington, as Western leaders look to maintain a united front in their biggest showdown with Russia since the end of the Cold War.

READ ALSO: Canadian Mayor Declares State Of Emergency Over ‘Out Of Control’ Protest

US officials say Russia has assembled 110,000 troops on the border with Ukraine and is on track to amass a large enough force — some 150,000 soldiers — for a full-scale invasion by mid-February.

Russia insists it has no plans to attack and has instead put forward its own demands for security guarantees that it says would ease tensions.

Macron, who will head to Kyiv on Tuesday for talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, said before leaving Paris that he would be looking to find “historic solutions” with Putin.

“We will discuss the terms of de-escalation,” Macron told newspaper Le Journal Du Dimanche, saying Russia’s objective was “clearly not Ukraine” but new agreements on security with NATO and the European Union.

“The security and sovereignty of Ukraine or any other European state cannot be compromised, just as it is legitimate for Russia to raise the question of its own security,” Macron said.

‘Very important’ talks

Moscow has accused the West, in particular Washington and NATO, of ignoring what it says are legitimate concerns for its security.

It is demanding a permanent ban on Ukraine, a former Soviet republic, joining the US-led NATO military alliance and that the bloc roll back its military presence in eastern Europe.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday’s talks between Macron and Putin were “very important” but suggested no one should expect a major step forward.

“The situation is too complex to expect decisive breakthroughs in one meeting,” Peskov told reporters.

Macron, whose country currently heads the European Union and who is facing a re-election challenge in April, has tried to position himself as the key European figure in negotiations with Russia.

He has spoken to Putin by phone several times over the past week and held a 40-minute call with Biden on Sunday.

Macron is expected to push forward a stalled peace plan for the festering conflict with Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine, and could make offers to Russia for consultations on arms control and NATO expansion.

The United States have taken the lead in warnings about an invasion, with officials in Washington citing intelligence assessments this weekend that Russia has stepped up preparations for an invasion.

‘Apocalyptic predictions’

Such a force would be capable of taking Kyiv in a matter of 48 hours in an onslaught that would kill up to 50,000 civilians, 25,000 Ukrainian soldiers and 10,000 Russian troops and trigger a refugee flood of up to five million people, mainly into Poland, the officials said.

Kyiv has consistently tried to tone down the warnings, with Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba saying on Sunday: “Do not believe the apocalyptic predictions. Different capitals have different scenarios, but Ukraine is ready for any development.”

An advisor to Zelensky also said the chance of finding a diplomatic solution was “substantially higher” than that of a war.

Biden has reacted to the Russian troop build-up by offering 3,000 American forces to bolster NATO’s eastern flank, with a batch of the troops promised arriving in Poland on Sunday.

Scholz told the Washington Post ahead of his talks with Biden that the West has “worked hard to send a clear message to Russia that it will have a high price if they were to intervene into Ukraine.”

Western leaders have repeatedly warned of severe consequences if Russia invades, including wide-ranging economic sanctions.

While Scholz is in Washington, his foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock, will be in Kyiv along with her Czech, Slovak and Austrian counterparts for a two-day visit.

Scholz himself will be in Moscow and Kyiv next week for talks with Putin and Zelensky.

 

AFP

Macron To Host Africa ‘Summit’ Without Leaders

French President Emmanuel Macron attends the One Planet Summit videoconference meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris on October 4, 2021.  (Photo by Michel Euler / POOL / AFP)

 

President Emmanuel Macron will host a conference on Africa on Friday billed as a summit but with no other leaders attending, as he aims to readjust France’s relationship with the continent.

Instead of other heads of state and premiers, Macron is inviting hundreds of young businesspeople, artists, and sporting figures to the southern city of Montpellier.

The aim is “to listen to the words of African youth” and “to leave behind obsolete formulas and frameworks”, said a French presidential official who asked not to be named.

The meeting comes at a delicate moment between France and many of its former colonies in French-speaking Africa, as a row rumbles on over a decision to cut visas to citizens of Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia.

Algeria recalled its ambassador after Macron reportedly said the country was ruled by a “political-military system”, while tensions have erupted between France and Mali over plans to deploy Russian mercenaries as part of an anti-jihadist fight.

The new format hints at the frustration felt by France, which has held summits with African leaders since 1973, with the political leadership of some countries.

Roughly 3,000 participants including more than 1,000 young people are expected in Montpellier for discussions on economic, cultural, and political issues.

Macron is set to debate with a panel of young people chosen after months of dialogue led by the Cameroon intellectual Achille Mbembe, who is in charge of preparing the meeting.

“Subjects that cause anger will be on the table,” the French presidential official said, adding that “the current political context makes the discussion particularly sensitive”.

French officials are promising concrete proposals from a report that Mbembe is to submit to Macron on Tuesday.

 

‘Symbolic Gestures’

Macron vowed in a November 2017 speech in Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou to take a new approach to Africa, where France would no longer tell Africans what to do.

He has also made a point of reaching out to English-speaking Africa to build sway beyond France’s former colonial possessions.

On Thursday, Macron will meet in Paris with former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo, still a hugely influential figure on the continent.

Since the 2017 speech, cultural artefacts pillaged from Benin have been returned and the abolition of the CFA franc, a currency once used in several countries but guaranteed by France, has been abolished.

Meanwhile, a report commissioned by Macron acknowledged France’s “overwhelming responsibilities” over the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, an issue that has poisoned relations between Paris and Kigali.

“Since the speech in Ouagadougou, the lines have moved symbolically, there have been important gestures,” said Amadou Sadjo Barry, a Canadian philosopher of Guinean origin.

“But in terms of foreign policy, we cannot speak of major changes,” he told AFP.

France remains more than ready to tolerate autocratic regimes, quickly accepting the handover of power from Chad’s president Idriss Deby Itno to his son in April.

While the Montpellier format may help bring some new life into France-Africa relations, Barry described the meeting as “a symbolic defeat for Africa”.

“Why is it still that the human, political and economic future of the African continent is being discussed in France? Why don’t African governments themselves listen to the concerns of their populations,” he asked.

AFP