PARIS (Reuters) – French President Emmanuel Macron called for restraint in both words and actions in dealing with the Ukraine conflict, after U.S. President Joe Biden described Russian President Vladimir Putin as a “butcher” and said he should not remain in power.
“I wouldn’t use this type of wording because I continue to hold discussions with President Putin,” Macron said on France 3 TV channel.
Biden, speaking in Warsaw, had said that Putin “cannot remain in power”. A White House official later said Biden’s remarks did not represent a shift in Washington’s policy and were meant to prepare the world’s democracies for an extended conflict, not back regime change in Russia.
“We want to stop the war that Russia has launched in Ukraine without escalation — that’s the objective,” Macron said on France 3 TV, noting the objective was to obtain a cease fire and the withdrawal of troops through diplomatic means.
“If this is what we want to do, we should not escalate things — neither with words nor actions,” he said.
The French president on Friday had said he was seeking to hold more talks with President Putin in the coming days regarding the situation in Ukraine as well as an initiative to help people leave the besieged city of Mariupol.
President Putin sent his troops into Ukraine on what he calls a “special military operation” to demilitarise and “denazify” Ukraine. Ukraine and the West say Putin launched an unprovoked war of aggression.
Far-right French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen said she backed Macron’s approach.
“Obviously, those are words that add oil to the fire,” she said, when asked about Biden’s comment.
“The fact that the president of the Republic is not entering into this escalation is a good thing,” she said, speaking on France 3 in a pre-recorded interview that was broadcast on Sunday.
(Reporting by Elizabeth Pineau and Mimosa Spencer. Editing by Jane Merriman)