Macron warns against ‘escalation’ after Biden brands Putin ‘butcher’

1. Ukraine
Emergency service members walk outside the destroyed regional headquarters of Kharkiv on March 27, 2022. (Photo: AFP)
KYIV — Macron warned Sunday against a verbal “escalation” of Russia’s invasion in Ukraine, after US President Joe Biden branded Vladimir Putin a “butcher” who “cannot remain in power”.اضافة اعلان

The Kremlin had reacted in fury over Biden’s comments which it said narrows the window for bilateral relations, with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine now into a second month.

Macron said he would speak to Putin in the next two days to organize the evacuation of civilians from the heavily bombarded port city of Mariupol.

The French leader told broadcaster France 3 that he saw his task as “achieving first a ceasefire and then the total withdrawal of (Russian) troops by diplomatic means.”

“If we want to do that, we can’t escalate either in words or actions.”

Ukraine was making a new push to get civilians out of the city on Sunday, with an aid route agreement for people to leave by cars or on evacuation buses, said Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk.

Several attempts at establishing safe routes for civilians to flee have collapsed as both sides trade blame for violating temporary ceasefires.

Mariupol, in the region of Donetsk, has borne the brunt of Russia’s assaults, and residents who managed to flee have recounted harrowing scenes of death and destruction.

About 170,000 people remain trapped in the besieged city and authorities have said they fear some 300 civilians may have died in a Russian strike on March 17 that hit a theatre being used as a bomb shelter.

In an impassioned speech from the Royal Castle in Warsaw, Biden blasted Putin over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power,” the US leader said, before the White House clarified that Washington was not seeking regime change.

The Kremlin snapped back, saying “a head of state should stay sober”.

Recapture town

Bombardments continued over the last 24 hours in Irpin, as well as other cities around Kyiv, said Ukrainian authorities.

Ukraine’s determined fighters continue to hold back Russia’s far-bigger military on the frontlines, and some units are beginning to snatch back control.

Two people were killed by shelling in the village of Stanislav, close to the city of Kherson, where Ukrainian forces have mounted a counter-offensive.

In an update early Sunday, the Ukrainian General Staff said “the allied forces repulsed seven attacks” and destroyed eight tanks in the Donetsk and Lugansk areas of the Donbas.

The Ukrainian defense ministry said its forces had also recaptured Trostianets, a town near the Russian border that was one of the first to fall under Moscow’s control.

Images published by the ministry showed Ukrainian soldiers and civilians among heavily damaged buildings and what appeared to be abandoned Russian military equipment.

Elsewhere, Russian forces took control of Slavutych, the town where workers at the decommissioned Chernobyl nuclear plant live, briefly detaining the mayor, Ukrainian authorities said.

Residents of the town protested, prompting the Russians to fire shots in the air and lob stun grenades into the crowd, they added.

‘One percent’

Biden, who was winding up a whirlwind visit to Poland after holding a series of urgent summits in Brussels with Western allies, met key Ukrainian cabinet ministers on Saturday.

In a possible shift on a plan to transfer Soviet-era fighter jets from Poland to Kyiv to boost Ukraine’s firepower in the skies — rejected last month by the Pentagon as too “high risk” — Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said the US now did not object.

“As far as we can conclude, the ball is now on the Polish side,” Kuleba said in written comments to AFP after the meeting.

In a video address, Zelensky reiterated a call for planes while urging allies to supply Ukraine with more weapons.

“We need more ammunition. We need it to protect not only Ukraine but other Eastern European countries that Russia threatened to invade,” he said.

“During the meeting ... with our American colleagues in Poland, we made it clear again,” he said.

“What is NATO is doing? Is it being run by Russia? What are they waiting for? It’s been 31 days. We are only asking for one percent of what NATO has, nothing more.”

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