Macron and Putin talk Ukraine weapons supply in latest phone call

Russian President Vladimir Putin told French counterpart Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday that the West must stop supplying weapons to Ukraine and accused Kyiv of not taking talks to end the conflict seriously, the Kremlin said.

Macron and Putin talk Ukraine weapons supply in latest phone call
Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and French President Emmanuel Macron attend a joint press conference in February 2022. (Photo by Sergei GUNEYEV / SPUTNIK / AFP)

Accusing Ukrainian forces of committing war crimes and claiming the EU was “ignoring” them, Putin told Macron “the West could help stop these atrocities by putting relevant pressure on the Kyiv authorities, as well as halting the supply of weapons to Ukraine”.

Putin also said Kyiv was not being consistent or ready for “serious work” on ending the conflict.

“The Russian side is still open to dialogue,” the Russian leader told Macron, according to the Kremlin readout.

Macron’s Elysée Palace office said that beyond reiterating calls on Russia to end the assault on its neighbour with a ceasefire and peace talks, he had urged Putin to allow evacuations from the besieged Azovstal steel plant in port city Mariupol to continue.

He also offered to “work with the relevant international organisations to help lift the Russian blockade on Ukrainian food exports via the Black Sea, given its consequences for global food security”.

For his part, Putin linked the food situation to Western sanctions against Russia and “noted the importance of the unimpeded functioning of the global logistics and transport infrastructure”, the Kremlin said.

Macron is one of the few Western leaders to speak to Putin since Moscow moved troops into Ukraine on February 24, spending hours on telephone calls trying to negotiate a resolution to the conflict.

The conflict has killed thousands of people and displaced more than 13 million, creating the worst refugee crisis in Europe since World War II.

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What you need to know about France’s newest political leader Eric Ciotti

France's Les Républicains - the once-powerful centre-right party of Jacques Chirac and Nicolas Sarkozy - has elected a new leader. But who is Eric Ciotti and what are his policies?

What you need to know about France's newest political leader Eric Ciotti

Ciotti was voted in as party leader with 53.7 percent of the vote of party members in a two-way final-round against opponent senator Bruno Retailleau.

And it hasn’t taken him long in his new job to look to land a few political points with a hoary old Christmas favourite in France – nativity cribs.

READ ALSO Explained: Why are Christmas cribs a political issue in France?

But who is the man whose job it now is to rediscover the party’s glory days?

Eric Ciotti, 57, was born in Nice, and has been MP for the 1st constituency of Alpes-Maritimes in the French parliament since 2007.

He was, briefly, deputy mayor of Nice in 2008, but left that role when he was elected to the presidency of the Departmental Council of Alpes-Maritimes, a position he held until 2017.

He was disgraced former presidential candidate François Fillon’s campaign manager when he ran for leadership of the party in 2012. When Jean-François Copé eventually won, Ciotti was one of more than 50 party members who threatened to form a caucus in the parliamentary group.

When Fillon was under investigation on suspicion of embezzling state funds in 2016, Ciotti publicly stated: “I trust and support François Fillon more than ever”.

He ran to be Les Républicains’ candidate in the 2022 presidential election. He was first in the opening round of voting, but lost to eventual candidate Valérie Pécresse in the second round.

Ciotti and his former wife Caroline Magne are under investigation for possible public funding violations, after Le Canard Enchaîné published claims that she held various posts in his office, or those of political allies. The Parquet National Financier (PNF) confirmed in November it had ordered a preliminary investigation of the satirical newspaper’s allegations.

What are his policies? 

He’s usually described as a ‘hardliner’ and definitely to the right of the party – in fact a lot of his statements sound closer to Marine Le Pen’s far-right Rassemblement National than traditional conservatism. 

He is on record as saying he wants to stop what he termed a “migratory invasion” of France, and pledged in his election campaign to “rehabilitate the value of work, fight against violence and disorder in the streets, stop the migratory invasion and the rise of Islamism”.

Ciotti argued that France should reassert itself by leaving NATO’s integrated command and said he would move the French embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

In September 2021, he said that if the second round of the French presidential election ended up being between Emmanuel Macron and Éric Zemmour, he would vote for the latter.

He has so far managed to skirt the question of whether he adheres to the controversial Great Replacement theory that Eric Zemmour holds so dear. But he told Nouvelle Obs: “Our society is changing, if we have to talk about ‘great replacement’, I talk about ‘replacement’.”

He is in favour of raising the retirement age to 65.

And he has called for the removal of VAT on fuel and energy, has proposed abolishing inheritance tax, raising certain tax thresholds, and cutting public services and lowering unemployment payments and other social benefits.

And will he run for president in 2027?

The next presidential elections are not for a while, but as things stand at the moment, the party says that Ciotti will not be their candidate.

He has already backed former party boss Laurent Wauquiez – another hardliner – as the party’s presidential candidate for  2027, when incumbent Emmanuel Macron will be ineligible to stand having served two terms.

Ciotti worked for a time in Wauquiez’s political sphere in 2018, shadowing then-Minister of the Interior Christophe Castaner.