Russia’s President Vladimir Putin committed a “historic and fundamental error” by invading Ukraine and Russia is now “isolated”, according to France’s leader.
But President Emmanuel Macron in an interview with French media repeated on Friday that Russia should not be “humiliated … so that the day the fighting stops we can pave a way out through diplomatic means”.
“I told him [Putin ] that he made a historic and fundamental error for his people, for himself and for history,” said Macron. “I think he has isolated himself. Isolating oneself is one thing, but being able to get out of it is a difficult path.”
France’s leader also said he did not “rule out” a visit to the Ukraine capital, Kyiv.
Thousands of people have been killed and millions others displaced since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, creating the worst refugee crisis in Europe since World War II.
Meanwhile, Putin on Friday blamed the West for emerging global food and energy crises and repeated his government’s offers of safe passage for ships exporting grain from Ukraine if mines are removed from the waters.
“Of course, we are now seeing attempts to shift the responsibility for what is happening on the world food market, the emerging problems in this market, onto Russia,” he told Russian TV.
“I must say that this is an attempt, as our people say, to shift these problems from a sick to a healthy head.”
The Kremlin leader said Russia was not blocking grain shipments from Ukraine and the West is using Russia as a scapegoat for its problems.
As reported by the state-run TASS news agency, Putin also said Western sanctions against Russia would only worsen world markets – reducing the harvest and driving up prices.
He said inflation stemmed from the unprecedented dollar “printing press” during the coronavirus pandemic and blamed short-sighted European policies for under-investment in alternatives to traditional energy supplies and price increases.
Putin pledged if Ukraine waters were de-mined, Russia would not attack grain shipments and suggested they could be made from the port of Berdyansk or other countries, such as Belarus. Berdyansk is under Russian occupation.
“There is no problem to export grain from Ukraine,” he said, saying it could be done via Ukrainian ports, via others under Russian control, or even via central Europe.
Putin accused the West of “bluster” by claiming Moscow was preventing grain exports from Ukraine.
Russia and Ukraine account for nearly a third of global wheat supplies, while Russia is also a key global fertiliser exporter and Ukraine is a major exporter of corn and sunflower oil.
Russia’s army has seized much of Ukraine’s southern coastline in the course of its 100-day war and its warships control access to the country’s Black Sea ports. But it continues to blame Ukraine and the West for the resulting halt in Ukrainian grain exports.
He also said ports under Kyiv’s control, in particular, Odesa, could be used but called for the waters around the Ukrainian-held ports to be “cleared” of mines by Ukraine.
Russia would in exchange allow the ships safe passage, Putin said. Other transport options include the Danube River via Romania, Hungary or Poland, he added.