Macron defends dialogue with Russia, as war strains cracks EU

French President Emmanuel Macron has lashed out at Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, calling his recent statements “scandalous.” Morawiecki had slammed the French leader’s efforts aimed at maintaining dialogue with Moscow amid the ongoing military attack on Ukraine.

“These statements are both baseless and scandalous,” Macron told French TF1 TV on Wednesday, in reference to the Polish prime minister’s comments from earlier this week. Morawiecki slammed several European leaders, including Macron, for supposedly achieving little through dialogue with the Kremlin.

“We do not discuss, we do not negotiate with criminals,” the Polish prime minister said as he compared Russian President Vladimir Putin to Adolf Hitler.

“I take full responsibility for having spoken to the president of Russia, in the name of France, to avoid the war and to build a new architecture for peace in Europe several years ago,” Macron said, adding that he was neither “naïve” nor “complicit” like “others,” without elaborating on who he had in mind.

The French president also accused the Polish prime minister of playing a role in a political stunt, saying that Morawiecki, a known Eurosceptic, represents “a far-right party” and “supports” Macron’s right-wing rival, Marine Le Pen.

Macron has repeatedly vowed to continue talking to Moscow and “respect” Russia, although he denounced the assault itself as a “historic mistake.”

Moscow attacked its neighbor in late February, following Ukraine’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements signed in 2014, and Russia’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics in Donetsk and Lugansk. The German and French brokered protocols had been designed to regularize the status of those regions within the Ukrainian state.

Russia has now demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.