Macron warns of escalation after Biden says Putin ‘can’t stay in power’

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French President Emmanuel Macron warned of an escalation on Ukraine on Sunday, a day after President Biden said Russian President Vladimir Putin was a “butcher” who “cannot stay in power”.

“I would not use this type of wording because I continue to have discussions with President Putin,” Macron said on Sunday during an appearance on the France 3 television channel. “We want to stop the war that Russia has launched in Ukraine without escalation, that is the objective”.

His main objective remained “to obtain first a ceasefire” and then a “total withdrawal” of Russian troops from Ukraine by “diplomatic means”, Macron told broadcasters on Sunday. “If this is what we want to do, we must not make it worse, neither with words nor with actions.”

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Macron said on Friday he would continue talks with Putin in the coming days as part of an effort for France to lead evacuations from the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol which has come under heavy Russian bombardment. Several attempts at humanitarian corridors have failed as over 100,000 people are estimated to remain in the port city with a pre-war population of 300,000.

This comes ahead of the first round of the presidential election in France on April 10, with a presidential run-off on April 24 if no candidate wins. Supporters of far-right French presidential candidate Eric Zemmour gathered for a campaign rally on the Place du Trocadero on Sunday.

In a pre-recorded interview broadcast on France 3 on Sunday, another far-right French presidential candidate, Marine Le Pen, said she supported Macron’s approach, describing Biden’s remarks as “words that add fuel to the fire,” according to a Reuters translation. “The fact that the President of the Republic does not enter into this escalation is a good thing,” she added.

During a speech at the Royal Castle in Warsaw, Poland, on Saturday, Biden said Putin was “prone to violence” and said “there is simply no justification or provocation for choosing the war by Russia”.

Speaking for about 30 minutes, Biden also referenced decades of Soviet control of Poland behind the Iron Curtain before the end of the Cold War and said “democracy will prevail” again in Ukraine.

“For the love of God, this man can’t stay in power,” Biden said, concluding his speech.

Earlier in the day, during a visit with Ukrainian refugees to Stadion Narodowy in Warsaw, Biden also remarked to reporters that Putin was a “butcher.”

President Biden delivers a speech at the Royal Castle in Warsaw, Poland, Saturday, March 26, 2022. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
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President Biden delivers a speech at the Royal Castle in Warsaw, Poland, Saturday, March 26, 2022. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
(AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

Biden’s off-script comments drew an instant rebuke from the Kremlin, with spokesman Dmitry Peskov telling Russian state media that such “personal insults” narrowed the window for bilateral relations.

“A head of state should nevertheless control his temper,” Peskov added.

The White House was forced to backtrack on Biden’s statements, saying he was not calling for regime change in Russia, but rather preparing the world’s democracies for protracted conflict and arguing that ” Putin cannot be allowed to exercise power over his neighbours.” or region.”

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Further clarifying Biden’s comments, US Ambassador to NATO Julianne Smith said during an appearance on “Fox News Sunday” that the United States “does not have a regime change policy toward Russia. and that the president was speaking “in the moment” if he appeared to suggest otherwise during his speech in Poland on Saturday.

At a press conference in Jerusalem earlier on Sunday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken also told reporters that the United States does not have a strategy for regime change in Russia, adding that Biden has argued that “Putin cannot be empowered to wage war or engage in aggression.” against Ukraine or anyone else.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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