President Zelensky looked away as Macron – who has been criticized for his recent comments on the conflict – repeatedly attempted to engage the Ukraine leader in gestures of friendship
Image: AFP via Getty Images)
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky looked far from impressed when he met with French President Emmanuel Macron in Kyiv on Thursday.
The embattled Ukrainian leader shared an awkward hug with Macron after the French leader was criticized for urging Ukrainian officials not to “humiliate” Russia but instead to seek to end the conflict by negotiating with Vladamir Putin.
At the conclusion of a joint press conference with Zelensky and EU leaders in Kyiv, Macron attempted to embrace the Ukrainian president in front of the cameras, but was met with a cold shoulder.
As Macron reached over and went in for a hug, Zelensky appeared to hesitate before quickly patting Macron on the back, looking toward the press and, clearly, ensuring the interaction with Macron was brief.
At other points, Zelensky looked away or at the ground as the French president repeatedly attempted to engage him in overt gestures of friendship.
Zelensky has previously accused Macron – a self-avowed mediator in the conflict – of making excuses for Putin and his actions. The Ukrainian president has said he was surprised by Macron’s recent remarks about him and insisted that he is seeking peace by the correct means.
He told the Financial Times earlier this month: “We are not going to humiliate anyone. We are going to respond in kind.”
As calls for a ceasefire continue, Zelensky added that he was open to “direct negotiations” with Putin – something that the Russian leader has continued to reject.
POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
“Any war should be ended at the negotiating table,” Zelensky told FT. “This is exactly how it has happened in history. I am still resolute and determined, whether I want it or not, I am ready for direct negotiations with President Putin if we are ready to discuss putting an end to this war seriously.”
During the trip to Ukraine, EU leaders made assurances to Ukraine after the war-torn country expressed interest in joining the European Union.
The leaders of four EU nations – Germany, France, Italy and Romania – insist Ukraine should be given “immediate” candidate status following its application.
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The group also visited the nearby town of Irpin to see the brutal effects of the Russian occupation earlier in the conflict.
Surrounded by devastation, Italian Premier Mario Draghi said: “We will rebuild everything.”
“They destroyed kindergartens, they destroyed playgrounds,” he added.
“Everything will be rebuilt.”