Macron’s role in Putin’s Ukraine war talks: ‘most visible’ leader now Merkel gone | World | News

Mr Macron has had more contact with Putin than any other Western leader, with the pair having spoken at least a dozen times over the past month. The French president’s last contact with his Russian counterpart came on Saturday during a 75-minute call in which he asked the Kremlin strongman to end his ongoing invasion of Ukraine, which has started last month.

Mr Macron was joined by German leader Olaf Scholz, who in Ukraine is facing his first major international crisis since taking over as chancellor from Angela Merkel in December.

Both men asked Putin for an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine, a German government spokesman said.

It came after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky also said on Saturday that Putin’s military assault on his country must end before talks between Kyiv and Moscow could take place.

The Kremlin said Putin accused Ukraine of using civilians as human shields and made no mention of a ceasefire.

In the context of the conflict, Mr Macron has become the “most visible” leader, according to a European political scientist from the London School of Economics.

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Professor Michael Bruter, director of the Observatory of Electoral Psychology, told the French president played a key role in the crisis following the end of the 16-year term of fellow European heavyweight Ms Merkel as German Chancellor last year.

He said: “The UK is not really a competitor here. Moreover, Merkel is no longer in power.

“She was the longest serving leader in terms of experience, in terms of time in power.

“She was also a highly respected voice within the EU.

“Italy is still in a fragile situation in several respects.

“I don’t think… Should we close the door and say ‘never’? It would be unfair.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte also confirmed that there is no fast track to the EU saying: “There is no fast track.

“I want to focus on what we can do for Volodymyr Zelensky tonight, tomorrow, and Ukraine’s EU membership is something long-term, if at all.”

Professor Bruter said France’s EU presidency had helped Mr Macron cultivate an image of strong leadership.

He said: “Macron has delivered exactly what he says and in a way he is seen as the dominant leader.

“Part of it is a timing coincidence, that France has the presidency of the EU at the moment.

“By definition, the summit was taking place in France and the agenda was dominated by France.”

The expert also suggested that Brexit has given Mr Macron more of a spotlight in the EU.

He said: “The fact that the UK has left the EU means there is one less contender for the headlines.”

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