French PM warns of ‘tipping point’ in Ukraine-Russia conflict

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French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal on Tuesday told parliament that Ukraine’s fight against the Russian invasion had hit a “tipping point”, warning of “real, tangible dangers” for France should Russia defeat Kyiv’s forces.

Attal issued a stark view of the risks of failing to support Ukraine ahead of a symbolic vote in parliament on President Emmanuel Macron’s Ukraine strategy, as domestic tensions rage in the run-up to June’s European Parliament elections.

For the latest updates on the Russia-Ukraine war, visit our dedicated page.

Macron’s camp has been seeking to hammer home the importance of greater support for Ukraine, which is running out of ammunition, insisting that Europe’s security is at stake.

Following a debate, the National Assembly lower house will hold a non-binding vote on the government’s Ukraine strategy, including a bilateral security agreement signed by Macron and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky last month.

“Ukraine is watching us, waiting for the confirmation and signal of our unity behind them,” Attal told lawmakers as he opened the debate.

He added that “we are at a tipping point” in the conflict and that a Russian victory had “real, tangible dangers” for “everyday life for the French people”.

‘Flee responsibility’

With the symbolic parliament vote, Macron is forcing political parties to take a public stance on the conflict as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine stretches into its third year.

The far-right National Rally (RN), which leads Macron’s alliance by a wide margin ahead of the European elections, said it would abstain, while the far-left France Unbowed party (LFI) said it would vote against.

With the support of the conservative Republicans party (LR), the outcome of the vote could still offer backing to Macron’s strategy.

Targeting the RN, Attal said that “to abstain is to flee before your responsibility to history and to betray what is dearest to us”.

He signed off his opening speech with the Ukrainian battle cry of “Slava Ukraini”, leaving party chiefs to speak ahead of the vote expected around 8:00 pm.

The upper house, the Senate, was set to hold similar debates on Wednesday.

The LFI said it would vote “against war” and the possibility of Ukraine joining NATO and the European Union in the future.

For his part, Jordan Bardella, the 28-year-old leader of the RN, said his party would abstain because of its “red lines”.

‘No to war with Russia’

“We need to be very careful”, Bardella told broadcaster France 2. “Yes to support for Ukraine but no to war with Russia.”

The RN opposes the dispatch of Western ground troops, which Macron has refused to rule out, and the possibility of Ukraine becoming a member of NATO and the EU.

Allies of Macron at the weekend lambasted the RN at the launch of their European election campaign, accusing the far-right party of flirting with the Kremlin and betraying the interests of France and Europe.

But public support for France’s continued aid for Ukraine is waning, according to some pollsters.

An Elabe poll released on Sunday showed that 39 percent of French people support France’s continued economic and financial aid for Ukraine, 11 percentage points down from June 2023.

Just 14 percent of French people believe France should ramp up military aid for Ukraine according to the study.

Macron emphasising that his ruling party is prepared for war with Russia is a “risky bet” ahead of the elections, the Eurointelligence think tank said.

It added that Macron’s “narrow focus” on the RN made his party an “easy target” for others.

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Macron’s hardened stance, including not ruling out the sending of Western troops to Ukraine, represents a turnaround for a leader who had for years sought to position himself as a top mediator between Russia and Ukraine.

Speaking to French broadcaster BFM TV on Monday, Ukrainian leader Zelensky said there was no need for French ground troops in his war-torn country as long as “Ukraine holds”.

“Your children are not going to die in Ukraine,” he said.

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