Ex-MI6 chief tells Macron he’s playing ‘risky game’ pandering to Putin as Zelensky snubbed

Russian state TV pundits mock Macron's attempts to talk to Putin

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The French leader has been trying to negotiate with Putin since the beginning of Russia’s attack on Ukraine on February 24, but Mr Macron has so far failed to secure a ceasefire from the Russian leader. President Macron has also drawn criticism from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky after he repeatedly claimed Russia should not be “humiliated” as a result of the war.

Former MI6 chief John Sawers warned the French leader’s tactics could risk a losing game for Ukraine.

He said: “Macron is playing a risky game on Ukraine.

“His warning that Putin should not be ‘humiliated’ could lead to a premature ceasefire that locks in Russian gains.”

He continued: “Unsurprisingly, there have been calls for an early peace initiative, while French President Emmanuel Macron has said that it is important not to ‘humiliate’ Russia over its invasion — a remark that drew a frosty response from Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky’s chief of staff.

“The problem is that a ceasefire now would lock in Russia’s military gains on the ground.

“There is no reason to think that Vladimir Putin would agree to pull back; indeed, the occupiers are busy ‘Russifying’ the occupied zones, imposing Russian as the language in schools, taking control of the media and putting stooges in nominal charge of local administration.”

The former British Intelligence director added in the Financial Times: “Ukraine calls for Russia’s defeat. Again, it is not clear what that means in practice, but it is at odds with Macron’s call for Putin not to be humiliated. France has given valuable military support to Ukraine and backed EU sanctions on Russia.

“But it is striking that Macron has not bothered to visit Kyiv in the more than 100 days since the war began, while he has kept in frequent telephone contact with Putin.

“French companies have been the most reluctant to leave Russia, in the hope, perhaps, that staying on will reap rewards in the future.

“We shouldn’t be surprised that Ukraine’s leaders are wary of Macron’s intentions.”

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Mr Macron was also lambasted by his allies in the EU.

Polish President Andrzej Duda slammed the French President and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz over their phone calls with Putin, saying it was like having talks with Adolf Hitler during World War Two.

Mr Macron and Mr Scholz have both held one-on-one phone calls with Putin since Russia launched a devastating invasion of Ukraine, with Macron in particular stirring Ukrainian ire by saying Russia must not be “humiliated” so as to preserve chances of a diplomatic solution.

President Duda, in an interview with German daily Bild first released on its YouTube channel late on Wednesday, said such discussions only legitimised an illegal war in Ukraine.

“Did anyone speak like this with Adolf Hitler during World War Two?” Mr Duda said.

“Did anyone say that Adolf Hitler must save face? That we should proceed in such a way that it is not humiliating for Adolf Hitler? I have not heard such voices.”

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The conflict in Ukraine, described by Moscow as a “special military operation” to stamp out perceived threats to its security, has flattened cities, killed thousands of civilians and forced over 7 million people to flee the country.

Ukraine and its Western allies say Russia is waging an unprovoked war to grab territory.

In a joint call with Putin on May 28, Mr Scholz and President Macron urged him to release the 2,500 Ukrainian fighters captured at Mariupol’s Azovstal steel plant and to speak directly with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, according to President Macron’s Elysee Palace.

Italy and Hungary have urged the European Union to call explicitly for a ceasefire in Ukraine and peace talks with Russia, putting themselves at odds with other member states like Poland determined to take a hard line with Moscow Last month, Zelenskiy savaged suggestions by some in the West that Kyiv give up territory and make concessions to end the war, saying the idea smacked of attempts to appease Nazi Germany in 1938 in the run-up to World War Two.

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