PARIS, France — French President Emmanuel Macron declined Wednesday to repeat President Joe Biden’s accusation that Russia was carrying out “genocide” against Ukrainians, warning that verbal escalations would not help end the war.
Biden had accused Vladimir Putin’s forces on Tuesday of committing genocide in Ukraine, saying it has “become clearer and clearer that Putin is just trying to wipe out the idea of even being able to be a Ukrainian.”
But speaking to France 2 television as he ramped up his re-election campaign against far-right leader Marine Le Pen, Macron said leaders should be careful with language.
“I would say that Russia unilaterally unleashed the most brutal war, that it is now established that war crimes were committed by the Russian army and that it is now necessary to find those responsible and make them face justice,” Macron said.
“It’s madness what’s happening, it’s incredibly brutal,” he added.
“But at the same time I look at the facts and I want to try as much as possible to continue to be able to stop this war and to rebuild peace. I’m not sure that verbal escalations serve this cause,” he said.
Macron said it was best to be “careful” with the terminology on genocide in this situation, especially as “the Ukrainians and Russians are brotherly peoples.”
Biden’s comments were welcomed by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who has repeatedly accused Moscow of genocide since the invasion was launched on February 24.
The comments by Macron, who has kept dialogue going with Putin during the conflict, echo concerns the French leader expressed last month after Biden called Putin a “butcher.”
Macron responded at the time that the priority was to achieve a ceasefire through diplomacy, and “if we want to do that, we can’t escalate either in words or actions.”
In his interview with France 2, Macron indicated he would be holding new telephone talks with both Putin and Zelensky in the coming days.