Day 362 of the Invasion of Ukraine: Zelensky says Macron wasting time in considering “Dialogue With Russia”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in an interview published on Sunday (19 February) that his French colleague Emmanuel Macron was wasting his time considering any sort of dialogue with Russia.
Zelenskyiy, interviewed by the Italian daily Corriere della Sera, was responding to a suggestion by Macron that Russia should be “defeated but not crushed” and that the conflict in Ukraine would have to be settled by negotiations.
The two presidents spoke by telephone on Sunday.
“If they have decided to isolate themselves in the dream of rebuilding the old Soviet empire, we cannot do anything about it. It is up to them to choose or not to cooperate with the community of nations on the basis of mutual respect.”
“It will be a useless dialogue. In fact Macron is wasting his time. I have come to the conclusion that we are not able to change the Russian attitude,” Zelenskyy told the Italian daily.
He rejected any suggestion that it was Western sanctions that had driven Russia President Vladimir Putin into isolation.
“It was instead the decision to launch the war that marginalised Putin,” he was quoted as saying.
On Friday, Macron urged allies to step up military support for Ukraine.
He also said in an interview with the Journal du Dimanche he did not believe in regime change, that there was little chance of a democratic solution from within Russian civil society and no alternative to bringing Putin back to the negotiating table.
Those comments prompted the Russian Foreign Ministry’s spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, to say that France should remember the 19th century defeat in Russia of Napoleon Bonaparte.
Macron has drawn criticism from some NATO allies for delivering mixed messages regarding his policy on the war between Ukraine and Russia.
In describing their conversation on Sunday, Zelenskyy made no mention of Macron’s latest comments. The leaders discussed strategies, including joint decisions Zelenskyy said were due ahead of this week’s first anniversary of Russia’s invasion.
Before a brief visit to Paris this month, Zelenskyy said the French president’s tougher stand on Russia in recent months showed had had undergone a significant change.
Ukraine will defend Bakhmut
Zelenskyy said in the same interview that Ukraine would maintain its months-long defence of the eastern city of Bakhmut, mindful of the price paid in human lives.
His comments come as debate rages over whether Kyiv’s outnumbered forces should remain in the eastern Ukraine city, which Russian shelling has all but destroyed.
Bakhmut, in the frontline Donetsk region, had a pre-war population of 70,000 but now Ukrainian officials estimate fewer than 5,000 civilians remain.
“Yes, it is not a particularly big town. In fact, like many others in Donbas, (it’s been) devastated by the Russians. It is important for us to defend it, but not at any price and not for everyone to die,” Zelenskyy told the daily.
Analysts say the town has more symbolic than strategic value as a gateway to cities farther west in Donetsk region.
Zelenskyy said that Russian commanders were bent on pushing on to the cities of Kramatorsk and Sloviansk, farther west in Donetsk region “and as far as (the central city of) Dnipro.”
“We will resist and meanwhile prepare the next counter-attack.”
Russia launched its invasion a year ago this week and has concentrated on securing control of Donbas, made up of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, after failing initially to advance on the capital Kyiv.
Russian forces have besieged Bakhmut since July when they captured two major towns farther north.
Russian troops, spearheaded by the Russian Wagner Group mercenary force, have made incremental gains in nearby villages and fighting has engulfed its northern districts in the past few days.
But Ukrainian military analysts have said the town, protected by a river and wooded areas, has considerable significance in pinning down Russian occupying forces.
“Bakhmut plays an important role — it serves as a trap. For nine months it has dawn in the resources and means of the Russian occupying forces and they have been killed in large numbers. It must be regarded not as a fortress, but as a trap.”
“There are no grounds at this time for the Ukrainian military to leave Bakhmut. The town is not surrounded,” military analyst Oleksandr Kovaleno of the Ukrainian thinktank Information Resistance told the news site nv.ua.