Vladimir Putin gave the go-ahead for more than 1,000 Russian troops lining the Ukraine border to begin invading the country nearly a month ago on February 24. Since then, missiles have rained down on several Ukrainian cities with violent explosions occurring throughout the stricken country. Western countries have moved to slam Russia with financial sanctions aimed at crippling the Russian economy and bringing down Putin.
The UK, acting alone outside the EU following Brexit, last week imposed asset freezes and travel bans on seven leading oligarchs and 386 members of the Russian Duma – and has since announced a ban on exports to Russia of high-end luxury goods.
Brussels hit Russia hard this week with a fourth package of restrictive measures, including bans on Russian energy sector investments, luxury goods exports to Moscow and imports of steel products from Russia.
The sanctions also saw a freeze on assets of Russian oligarchs.
But the EU had been widely criticised for not doing enough early on, including member states not agreeing to ban Russia from the global SWIFT banking system, as well as hesitation over what to do about the Nord Stream 2 gas line project.
Mr Macron has also held several phone calls and meetings in Moscow with Putin but they have seemingly made no difference, with Russia ramping up its aggression against Ukraine.
Nile Gardiner, a foreign policy expert and former aide to Margaret Thatcher, launched a furious attack, telling Express.co.uk: “Take Emmanuel Macron for example – what has he done to ever stand up to Putin?
“Macron sees himself as some kind of statesman and peacemaker but the reality is Macron is just seen as a useful idiot by Putin.
“Putin is seeking concessions from Macron and the Europeans. He believes Macron is just a soft touch.”
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On Thursday, Mr Macron claimed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had delivered an “electric shock” to the defence alliance and given it a new strategic clarity that it was lacking.
The French President was on his campaign for re-election when asked whether he previously regretted describing NATO as “brain dead”.
Mr Macron replied: “Russia has given us a wake-up call.
“I always considered that we needed a strategic clarification, and we are in the process of getting it.”
Late on Thursday, the French President spoke with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky, with the latter taking to Twitter to say the two men had emphasised “the continuation of peaceful dialogue”.
Mr Zelensky wrote in his tweet: “Continued dialogue with French President @EmmanuelMacron.
“Discussed the support for Ukrainians in the fight against Russian aggression, especially in the defence sphere.
“Emphasis was put on the continuation of peaceful dialogue. We must strengthen the anti-war coalition.”