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Emmanuel Macron, France’s president, speaks to members of the media at a news conference following a special meeting of the European Council to discuss the Ukrainian crisis at the EU Council headquarters in Brussels on Feb. 24, 2022.

Emmanuel Macron, France’s president, speaks to members of the media at a news conference following a special meeting of the European Council to discuss the Ukrainian crisis at the EU Council headquarters in Brussels on Feb. 24, 2022. (Valeria Mongelli/Bloomberg)

French President Emmanuel Macron declined Wednesday to call the actions of Russian troops in Ukraine “genocide,” saying that “an escalation of rhetoric” would not help stop the war after both President Joe Biden and Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas used the term.

Macron told national broadcaster France 2 that he was “careful” about using “such terms today because these two peoples [Russians and Ukrainians] are brothers.”

“What we can say for sure is that the situation is unacceptable and that these are war crimes,” Macron said. “We are living through war crimes that are unprecedented on our soil - our European soil.”

Oleg Nikolenko, a spokesman for the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry, blasted Macron’s remarks, saying his “unwillingness to recognize the genocide of Ukrainians after all the outspoken statements of [the] Russian leadership and criminal actions of [the] Russian military is disappointing.”

“’Brotherly’ people do not kill children,” Nikolenko said, adding that “there is no moral, no real reason to conduct conversations about the ‘brotherly’ relations of Russian and Ukrainian peoples.”

Last week, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the grisly scenes left behind by Russian troops in Bucha, a Kyiv suburb where bodies were discovered in every neighborhood, did not “look far short of genocide.”

In early March, Putin called Macron for a 90-minute discussion about Ukraine, but there was no diplomatic breakthrough.

“Your country will pay dearly because it will end up as an isolated country, weakened and under sanctions for a very long time,” Macron reportedly told Putin.

Russia rejected Biden’s claims of “genocide” in Ukraine on Wednesday.

“We categorically disagree with them,” Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. “We consider it unacceptable to attempt such a distortion of the situation.”

He added: “This is hardly acceptable for the president of the United States of America.”

The Washington Post’s Rick Noack in Paris contributed to this report.


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