Europe, Russia-Ukraine War

France calls off Mariupol evacuation operation after phone call with Putin

French president's office says conditions for launching operation to help civilians in Ukrainian city not possible at this stage

Shweta Desai   | 30.03.2022
France calls off Mariupol evacuation operation after phone call with Putin

PARIS 

France called off a much-anticipated humanitarian operation in the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol following a phone exchange between President Emmanuel Macron and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, BFMTV news reported Tuesday.

The president’s office announced that the operation was not possible "at this stage" following Putin’s reaction. The call, which lasted an hour, reached a dead end and failed to yield any progress, the office said.

“The conditions for launching the humanitarian operation to help the civilians of Mariupol, who are besieged by the Russian army, are not met at this stage,” the Elysee Palace said after the phone call, according to the report.

Putin reportedly told Macron that he would think about the operation before giving any answer, the report added, quoting sources from the Elysee.

A statement from the Kremlin said Putin informed Macron “about the measures taken by the Russian military to provide emergency humanitarian assistance and ensure the safe evacuation of civilians, including from Mariupol," Russia’s TASS news agency reported.

Putin also said that “Ukrainian nationalist militants must stop resistance and surrender arms in order to resolve the difficult humanitarian situation in that city," it added.

The French presidency noted that hostilities and violations of humanitarian law continue in Mariupol.

Last week, Macron said that France is ready to spearhead an “exceptional humanitarian operation” along with Turkiye and Greece to evacuate civilians. Tuesday’s phone call with Putin was scheduled to discuss the modalities of the operation, which Paris wanted to work out as soon as possible to help the estimated 150,000 remaining residents who are left trapped in a critical state.

Since December 2021, Macron has had at least 17 interactions by phone with Putin and a personal meeting with him in Moscow. The French president has maintained a communication channel between Moscow and Kyiv in order to broker negotiations between the two warring countries.

Macron was scheduled to debrief his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskyy on his outreach with Putin. Zelenskyy has accused the Russians of a "crime against humanity" in Mariupol.

During the interaction with Putin, the French head of state also rejected Moscow’s proposal regarding payments for natural gas supplies in Russian rubles.


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