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France’s Emmanuel Macron urges Russia’s Vladimir Putin to restart evacuation efforts at the Azovstal plant in Ukraine’s Mariupol.

French President Emmanuel Macron, in a phone call with Vladimir Putin, has stressed the extreme gravity of the consequences of Russia’s war in Ukraine, and called on the Russian leader to allow evacuations from the Mariupol steel plant to resume, the Elysee Palace has said.

“I have called on Russia to live up to its international responsibility as a UN Security Council member by putting an end to this devastating attack,” an Elysee statement quoted Macron as saying on Tuesday.

Macron asked Putin to restart evacuations at the besieged Azovstal plant, which has served as a refuge for Ukrainians in Russian occupied-Mariupol, in coordination with humanitarian units, while allowing evacuees to choose their destinations, as called for under international law.

He also restated his willingness to work on conditions for a negotiated solution to the war, for peace and for full respect of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, and reiterated his oft-stated demand for a ceasefire, the statement said.

For his part, Putin told Macron the West must stop supplying weapons to Ukraine and accused Kyiv of not taking talks to end the conflict seriously, the Kremlin said.

Accusing Ukrainian forces of committing war crimes and claiming the EU was “ignoring” them, Putin told Macron “the West could help stop these atrocities by putting relevant pressure on the Kyiv authorities, as well as halting the supply of weapons to Ukraine”.

Putin also said Kyiv was not being consistent or ready for “serious work” on ending the conflict.”

The Russian side is still open to dialogue,” the Russian leader told Macron, according to the Kremlin readout.

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The call was the first reported conversation between the two leaders since March 29 – before the discovery of the alleged Russian atrocities in the Ukrainian town of Bucha – after multiple telephone talks in the previous weeks. The call came three days after Macron last spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Concerned about world food security, Macron said he was willing to work with international organisations to try to help seek a lifting of the Russian blockade on exports of food goods via the Black Sea, according to the statement.

Putin also linked the food situation to Western sanctions against Russia and “noted the importance of the unimpeded functioning of the global logistics and transport infrastructure”, the Kremlin said.

Thousands of people have been killed and more than 13 million others displaced since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, creating the worst refugee crisis in Europe since World War II.

Russia descibes the invasion as a “special military operation”. Kyiv and its allies say it is a war of aggression.

Source: Al Jazeera

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