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UKRAINE

 France’s Macron and Germany’s Scholz urge Putin to end siege of Mariupol: France

France and Germany urged Russia's Vladimir Putin Saturday to end the deadly days-long siege of the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, the French presidency said after three-way talks.

French president Emmanuel Macron and German chancellor Olaf Scholz shake hands at the Palace of Versailles
France's President Emmanuel Macron greets Germany's Chancellor Olaf Scholz (R) at the Palace of Versailles, near Paris, on March 10th, 2022, prior to the EU leaders summit to discuss the fallout of Russia's invasion in Ukraine. Ludovic MARIN / AFP

“The situation is very difficult and humanly intolerable” in Mariupol, a source in the Elysee presidential palace said, after what it termed a “very frank and difficult discussion” with the Russian leader.

“The only decision President Putin must take is to lift the siege.”

French President Emmanuel Macron’s office also accused Putin of “lies” for alleging that Ukrainian forces had committed human rights abuses by using civilians as human shields.

Russian President Vladimir Putin had earlier slammed what he said was the “flagrant violation” of international humanitarian law by Ukraine’s forces as he held phone talks with the leaders
of France and Germany, the Kremlin said.

The 75-minute three-way phone call with Macron, the Russian leader and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz focussed on France and Germany’s call for an immediate ceasefire and steps towards a diplomatic solution, sources in the French and German leaders’ offices said.

Macron told Putin “the Russian army’s abuses must cease”, the source said, warning that its actions could qualify as war crimes.

They said the two leaders spoke separately before the call with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, who asked them to call on Putin to halt the fighting.

Russian forces are closing in on the Ukrainian capital Kyiv and bombarding several other cities. The offensive has driven millions of Ukrainians from their homes.

Zelensky also asked the leaders to help secure the release of the mayor of the city of Melitpol, who he said has been abducted by Russian forces.

“We are putting on maximum pressure and we will not let up,” the French presidency said.

Macron demanded “very strongly that the conflict cease as quickly as possible in order to avoid the worst, including (Russia) resorting to illicit weapons or destroying cities”, it added.

US President Joe Biden on Friday vowed that Russia would pay a “severe price” if it used chemical weapons in Ukraine.

Macron has taken a leading role in trying to engage with Putin over Russia’s offensive.

The Elysee says he has had nine conversations with the Russian leader since meeting him at the Kremlin on February 7th. Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24th.

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UKRAINE

France ‘strongly condemns’ Russia’s expulsion of its diplomats

France "strongly condemns" the expulsion of 34 of its diplomats by Russia, the foreign ministry said Wednesday, a tit-for-tat move by Moscow after Paris ordered some Russian staff to leave.

France 'strongly condemns' Russia's expulsion of its diplomats

Saying the step had “no legitimate basis”, the ministry said in a statementthat “the work of the diplomats and staff at (France’s) embassy in Russia… takes place fully within the framework of the Vienna Convention on diplomatic and consular relations” — whereas Paris expelled the Russian staff in April on suspicion of being spies.

Moscow said Wednesday it was expelling 34 “employees of French diplomatic missions” in a tit-for-tat move following the
expulsion of Russian diplomats from France as part of joint European action over Russia’s campaign in Ukraine.

“Thirty four employees of French diplomatic missions in Russia have been declared persona non grata,” Russia’s foreign ministry said in a statement, adding that they have two weeks to leave the country.

Moscow made the announcement after summoning France’s ambassador to Russia, Pierre Levy, and telling him that the expulsion of 41 employees of Russian diplomatic missions was a “provocative and unfounded decision”, the statement
said.

“It has been stressed that this step causes serious damage to Russian-French relations and constructive bilateral cooperation,” the foreign ministry said.

French President Emmanuel Macron initially led diplomatic outreach to the Kremlin over Moscow’s military campaign in Ukraine but his talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin have eventually tapered off and overt French military
support to Ukraine has increased in recent months.

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