French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday cautioned against the use of escalating “words or actions” if a peace agreement or ceasefire is to be achieved in Ukraine.
A day before, President Joe Biden said in a speech that President Vladimir Putin “cannot remain in power” and had more critical words for the Russian leader. The comment prompted the White House to issue statements that Biden did not mean that the United States is pushing for a regime change in Russia.
“I wouldn’t use this type of wording because I continue to hold discussions with President Putin,” Macron told France 3 TV. “We want to stop the war that Russia has launched in Ukraine without escalation … that’s the objective.”
“We want to stop the war that Russia has launched in Ukraine without waging war and without escalation. This is the objective,” Macron continued, saying that NATO powers and France have “made the choice not to intervene in the conflict militarily.”
France’s goals are to obtain a ceasefire or the withdrawal of Russian forces from Ukraine, he said. Macron also said he is seeking to speak with Putin this week.
A Ukrainian negotiator said Kyiv and Moscow would hold talks this week in Turkey, a NATO member that has good relations with both Russia and Ukraine. A Russian negotiator confirmed in-person talks early this week, without giving further details, according to Reuters.
“If we want to do this, we must not be in the escalation, of neither words nor actions,” Macron continued.
The French president further stressed that the United States is a staunch ally who has “common values.”
After Biden’s remark, the Kremlin said through a spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, that only the Russian people can decide who they want as president—not outside forces. Peskov alleged that Biden made the comments due to “fatigue,” “irritability,” and “sometimes forgetfulness,” adding that it leads to “aggressive statements,” according to state-run media.
In a bid to further clarify Biden’s statement, U.S. Ambassador to NATO Julianne Smith told Fox News on Sunday that the administration “does not have a policy of regime change towards Russia” and contended Biden was speaking “in the moment,” without elaborating. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters in Israel that the United States doesn’t have a doctrine of regime change in Moscow.
After more than a month of conflict, Russia has had difficulty in seizing any major Ukrainian city and signaled on March 25 it was scaling back its ambitions to focus on securing the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine.
A local leader in the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic said on Sunday the region could soon hold a referendum on joining Russia, just as happened in Crimea after Russia seized the Ukrainian peninsula in 2014.
The conflict has left several Ukrainian cities devastated, caused a humanitarian crisis, and displaced an estimated 10 million people, nearly a quarter of Ukraine’s population.
Early on Sunday morning, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a video that NATO forces should provide Kyiv with tanks and fighter planes while accusing the West of not showing courage.
Reuters contributed to this report.