France and Germany urged Russia’s Vladimir Putin Saturday to end the deadly days-long siege of the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, the French presidency said after three-way talks.
“The situation is very difficult and humanly intolerable” in Mariupol, a source in the Elysee presidential palace said, after what it termed a “very frank and difficult discussion” with the Russian leader.
“The only decision President Putin must take is to lift the siege.”
French President Emmanuel Macron’s office also accused Putin of “lies” for alleging that Ukrainian forces had committed human rights abuses by using civilians as human shields.
The 75-minute three-way phone call with Macron, the Russian leader and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz focussed on France and Germany’s call for an immediate ceasefire and steps towards a diplomatic solution, sources in the French and German leaders’ offices said.
Macron told Putin “the Russian army’s abuses must cease”, the source said, warning that its actions could qualify as war crimes.
They said the two leaders spoke separately before the call with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, who asked them to call on Putin to halt the fighting.
Russian forces are closing in on the Ukrainian capital Kyiv and bombarding several other cities. The offensive has driven millions of Ukrainians from their homes.
Zelensky also asked the leaders to help secure the release of the mayor of the city of Melitpol, who he said has been abducted by Russian forces.
“We are putting on maximum pressure and we will not let up,” the French presidency said.
Macron demanded “very strongly that the conflict cease as quickly as possible in order to avoid the worst, including (Russia) resorting to illicit weapons or destroying cities”, it added.
US President Joe Biden on Friday vowed that Russia would pay a “severe price” if it used chemical weapons in Ukraine.
Macron has taken a leading role in trying to engage with Putin over Russia’s offensive.
The Elysee says he has had nine conversations with the Russian leader since meeting him at the Kremlin on February 7. Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.