French President Emmanuel Macron has refused to join his US counterpart Joe Biden in describing the actions of the Russian military in Ukraine as “genocide”. Macron said verbal attacks would not help further peace in Ukraine in an interview with television channel France 2 today.
Yesterday, Biden had sounded like endorsing Kyiv’s claims that the goal of the Russian attack was to exterminate the Ukrainian people. “Your family budget, your ability to fill up your tank, none of it should hinge on whether a dictator declares war and commits genocide half a world away,” he said in a speech in Iowa, referring to Russia’s President Vladimir Putin. Biden had previously called the Russian leader a “war criminal” and stated that the man “cannot remain in power.”
When asked about the characterisation during the interview, Macron said he “would be careful with such terms” and said the peoples of Ukraine and Russia were “brothers”.
However, those in power in Ukraine reject the second sentiment fiercely. Ukraine’s Institute of National Remembrance even made some infographics last month, explaining that Ukrainians were pureblood Slavs unlike Russians, who mixed with Ugro-Finnish tribes.
In the interview, the French president said the continued violence in Ukraine was “madness” and that he believed that “war crimes were committed by the Russian army” there and that the perpetrators should be held accountable. His primary goal, however, was securing peace in Ukraine, Macron said. “I am not sure that an escalation of rhetoric serves that cause,” he added, referring to Biden’s remark.
Kyiv accused Moscow of genocide earlier this month after presenting what it claimed to be evidence of Russian troops’ deliberate murder of civilians in the town of Bucha, northwest of Kyiv. Moscow had pulled its forces away from the Ukrainian capital after progress was made in peace talks.
Russia denied the allegations and said Kyiv was manipulating and fabricating evidence to frame Russian troops to ramp up Western military support and torpedo the peace process.
President Biden, infamously prone to gaffes, made a number of harsh remarks regarding Russia that reportedly strayed from the script. The White House had to course-correct and explain that the US didn’t have plans to send troops to Ukraine and didn’t have a policy to enact regime change in Russia, to name a few cases. Biden refused to acknowledge that his administration had to walk back on his words, saying this never happened.
Moscow attacked the neighbouring state in late February, following Ukraine’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements signed in 2014, and Russia’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The German and French brokered Minsk Protocol was designed to give the breakaway regions special status within the Ukrainian state.
Russia has since demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led Nato military bloc. Kyiv insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.