Saturday, June 25, 2022

France to step up arms supplies to Ukraine, Macron tells Zelensky

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PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron told his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky during a call on Tuesday that arms supplies from Paris would “increase in intensity”, according to a statement from the French presidency.

“He confirmed that arms deliveries by France would continue and would increase in intensity in the days and weeks to come, the same as for the supply of humanitarian equipment,” the statement said.

France was initially hesitant to supply heavy weaponry to Kyiv as Macron positioned himself as a mediator in the crisis, holding regular conversations with Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

But Macron’s talks with the Kremlin strongman have tapered off and overt French military support to Ukraine has increased in recent months.

At the end of April, Macron announced that France would supply Milan anti-tank missiles as well as Caesar howitzers, which are highly prized for their accuracy.

The French statement said that a total of 800 tonnes of humanitarian aid had been delivered since February.

The two leaders also discussed ways of exporting Ukrainian grains such as wheat, which many poor countries depend on.

Ukraine has long been one of the world s main breadbaskets, but it is struggling to export its produce due to a naval blockade by Russia and its harvest this year is expected to be cut by as much as half.

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“The two presidents also discussed the security guarantees that France could give to Ukraine as part of an international agreement in order to guarantee the respect of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country,” the French statement said.

Zelensky has occasionally had harsh words for Macron, once suggesting that the French leader was scared of Putin and recently saying his talks with the Russian leader were “in vain”.

Macron irked the Ukrainian government last week by saying that Ukraine s bid to join the European Union could take “decades” and that the country should be offered an arrangement short of full membership in the meantime.

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