Vladimir Putin needs “security guarantees” from the west so a peace deal can be negotiated, Emmanuel Macron has said provoking outrage from Kyiv.
In an interview with the French television station TF1 following his state visit to the US, Mr Macron said his Russian counterpart remains worried about Nato expansion and this needs to be addressed as part of negotiations to end the war in Ukraine.
“This means that one of the essential points we must address, as President Putin has always said, is the fear that Nato comes right up to its doors and the deployment of weapons that could threaten Russia,” Mr Macron said.
“That topic will be part of the topics for peace, so we need to prepare what we are ready to do, how we protect our allies and member states, and how to give guarantees to Russia the day it returns to the negotiating table.”
Kyiv immediately criticised the French president for advocating making concessions to the Kremlin.
“Someone wants to provide security guarantees to a terrorist and killer state?” said Oleksiy Danilov, who serves as Volodomyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian resident’s national security chief.
“Instead of Nuremberg – to sign an agreement with Russia and shake hands?” he added.
Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Zelensky said the “civilised world needs ‘security guarantees’ from [the] barbaric intentions of post-Putin Russia.”
Ukraine rejects the suggestion that the Kremlin should be given any concessions ten months into Vladimir Putin’s bloody invasion.
Leaders in Kyiv similarly maintain negotiations will only be possible if and when Russia withdraws all of its troops.
David Arakhamia, who acted as the chief of the Ukrainian negotiating group in lapsed talks in the early days of the war, said on Telegram that in order for Ukraine to begin negotiations, Russia would need to “leave the territory of our country, pay reparations; punish all war criminals; voluntarily give up all nuclear weapons”.
Criticism for Mr Macron stretched beyond Kyiv with Alexander Stubb, the former prime minister of Finland, saying he “fundamentally” disagreed with the remarks.
“The only security guarantees we should focus on are essentially non-Russian,” he tweeted. “Russia needs first to guarantee that it does not attack others. Only then can we begin discussions on [European Security.]”
Artis Pabriks, Latvia’s deputy prime minister, told the Financial Times on Sunday: “The idea that the Russian invasion [of] Ukraine can be ended by the west giving security guarantees to Russia is falling into the trap of Putin’s narrative that the west and Ukraine are responsible for this war and Russia is [an] innocent victim.”
Critics similarly lashed out against Mr Macron in June for stating that the west “should not humiliate Russia” over the war because it would still be a neighbour once the conflict was over.
Russia and the United States have both said this week they are open to talks in principle, though Joe Biden, the US president, said he would only talk to Putin if the Kremlin chief showed he was interested in ending the war. Ukraine says negotiations are possible only if Russia stops attacking and pulls out its troops.
On Feb 8, just weeks before Russia’s invasion, at a joint press conference with Mr Macron in Moscow, Mr Putin outlined three security demands: an end to Nato enlargements; no missile deployments near its borders; and a scaling back of Nato’s military infrastructure in Europe to 1997 levels.
The United States said at the time that the Russian demands were “non starters”.