Europe rift on Ukraine clouds Macron talks in Berlinon March 15, 2024 at 5:35 pm

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The French president has met with EU leaders.

Emmanuel Macron, Olaf Scholz and Donald Tusk shaking hands.Image source, Reuters

Emmanuel Macron has said that France, Germany and Poland are “united” after a rift was exposed over Europe’s response to Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The French president had warned the “security of Europe and the French is at stake” and if Russia wins Europe’s credibility will be “reduced to zero”.

But Germany’s Olaf Scholz has been far more cautious, ruling out the deployment of the country’s Taurus cruise missiles.

Ukraine faces a critical arms shortage.

The German chancellor has come under pressure to extend his government’s help, because a $60bn (£47bn; €55bn) US military aid package for Ukraine has been blocked in Congress by Republicans on the right.

Germany remains Europe’s biggest source of military aid for Ukraine, but Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, who joined the two leaders in Berlin later, said it was now up to their three countries to “mobilise all of Europe” to provide Ukraine with help.

He denied reports of a rift at a press conference, calling them “exaggerated” and “malicious rumours”.

“True solidarity with Ukraine? Less words, more ammunition,” he had posted on social media earlier on Friday.

Their meeting came as a Russian missile attack on the southern Ukrainian port city of Odesa killed 16 people and left another 55 wounded, according to the regional head. Among those killed and wounded were emergency medical teams.

Several private homes and a gas pipeline were hit by the missile strike in Odesa

Image source, Odessa rescue service

As members of Ukraine’s DSNS emergency service arrived to search for casualties and put out fires, more Russian rockets reportedly landed at the scene and the DSNS released several photos of wounded colleagues.

Differences over the response to the war have deepened between Paris and Berlin in recent weeks, after the German chancellor said long-range Taurus missiles would need German soldiers on the ground in Ukraine to look after them and that was a limit that he was not prepared to cross.

President Macron has equally angered some of his European partners by suggesting that sending Western troops could not be ruled out.

In an extended live interview on French TV on Thursday night he said it was not his wish, although “all these options are possible”.

Stressing that France was a force for peace, he warned that Russia was seeking to extend its power and would not stop now: “If we leave Ukraine alone, if we let Ukraine lose this war, then for sure Russia will threaten Moldova, Romania and Poland.”

Ahead of Friday’s meeting of the three leaders, billed as a bid to revive the so-called “Weimar Triangle”, the German chancellor told Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky over the phone that the summit was of great importance to “organise as much support as possible for Ukraine”.

Mr Zelensky went on social media to say he had told the German leader that Ukraine’s priorities were “armoured vehicles, artillery, and air defence”.

At a press conference following Friday’s meeting in Berlin, Mr Tusk said he, Emmanuel Macron and Olaf Scholz “spoke with one voice, above all, about the security of our continent”.

The leaders also said a “capacity coalition” to provide long-distance artillery to Ukraine would be set up, while vowing to “never prompt escalation” there.

Mr Scholz said the three countries wanted to ensure that Ukraine could defend itself against Russia’s invasion.

Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg warned on Thursday that Ukrainians were “not running out of courage, they are running out of ammunition”, more than two years after Russia’s full-scale invasion began.

He said the shortage was one of the reasons why Russia had made recent advances on the battlefield, and he called on Nato allies to provide Ukraine with what it needed.

A Czech-led initiative to source weapons from outside Europe has already raised enough funds to buy at least 300,000 shells and Prague officials say the first deliveries will arrive by June at the latest.

Russia’s military captured the eastern town of Avdiivka after months of trying in February and Ukraine’s commander-in-chief Oleksandr Syrskyi said on a visit to the area on Friday that Russian forces had been trying to break through Ukrainian lines “for several days in a row”.

“Russian advances are supported by intense artillery fire and the active use of spotter drones and drones capable of dropping munitions.”

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