Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said he has invited his French counterpart to visit Ukraine to see for himself the evidence that Russian forces have committed “genocide,” a term President Emmanuel Macron has avoided.
“I spoke to him yesterday,” Zelensky told CNN in an interview taped Friday but broadcast Sunday.
“I just told him that I wanted him to understand that this is not a war, but nothing more than genocide. I invited him to come when he got the chance. She will come and see, and I am sure she will understand. “
Zelensky said he also thought US President Joe Biden would be coming at some point, though White House officials have said there are no plans to do so.
The Ukrainian leader said he believed Macron was avoiding using the term “genocide,” a term Biden has now used regarding the war in Ukraine, because he believes it would damage the chances of a diplomatic engagement with Russia.
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The Ukrainian president has previously said that Macron’s refusal to use the designation was “very painful for us.”
Macron is in the midst of an election campaign, with a second round against far-right politician Marine Le Pen scheduled for next Sunday.
On Thursday, he told France’s Radio Bleu that it was not useful for Ukraine “to enter into verbal escalations without drawing all the conclusions.”
“The word ‘genocide’ has a meaning” and “needs to be characterized legally, not by politicians.”
Zelensky, in his interview with CNN, said he would also like to see Biden visit Ukraine.
A growing list of European leaders have turned to kyiv in shows of support, including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
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After Johnson visited the devastated Ukrainian city of Bucha, where authorities say dozens of civilians were “just shot in the streets,” he said evidence of a massacre by Russian troops “doesn’t strike me as far from a genocide”.
Regarding a possible visit by Biden, Zelensky said: “I think he will ‘come’, but it is his decision, of course, and on the security situation, it depends.”
“But I think he is the leader of the United States, and that is why he should come here to see.”
US officials say they are considering sending an envoy to kyiv, but have ruled out a high-risk visit from the 79-year-old president himself for now.