Kremlin says France ready for ‘direct’ role in Ukraine


Moscow: French President Emmanuel Macron’s recent statements are “inflaming” tensions in Europe and show he is readying France for a direct role in the Ukraine conflict, the Kremlin said on Friday. The French leader has taken a hawkish line in his support for Ukraine, promising on Thursday to transfer Mirage fighter jets to the embattled country and help train Ukrainian pilots.

“Macron demonstrates absolute support for the Kyiv regime and declares readiness for France’s direct participation in the military conflict,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying.

“We consider these statements to be very, very provocative, inflaming tensions on the continent and not conducive to anything positive,” Peskov said on the sidelines of the Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum. Macron has refused to rule out deploying troops to Ukraine, despite reluctance from other NATO members and furious condemnation from Moscow. France does not officially have military personnel assisting or training Ukrainian forces in Ukraine at the moment, but Kyiv said last week it was “in talks” with Paris on the issue.

Russia warned on Tuesday it would consider any foreign instructors sent to Ukraine “legitimate target” for strikes.

Three killed by strike on Russian-held Ukrainian city

A missile attack on the Russian-controlled city of Lugansk in eastern Ukraine on Friday killed three people and injured over 30, Russian officials said.

The eastern Lugansk region is almost entirely under Russian control and Moscow has claimed its full annexation.

The main city, also called Lugansk, came under a “massive” missile attack, according to its Russia-appointed head, Leonid Pasechnik. The emergency situations ministry said a section of an apartment block had collapsed. “Unfortunately three people were killed,” the ministry said while rescuers managed to pull seven survivors from the rubble.It posted images of a five-storey block of flats with the facade ripped open from the roof to the ground and a deep crater in the ground. The regional government said on Telegram that 35 people were injured including three children aged 8 to 16, citing the regional health ministry.

Of these, “five people are in a serious state,” said regional health minister Nataliya Pashchenko. Pasechnik said on Telegram that “Ukrainian nationalists in the daytime launched a massive attack on civilian infrastructure of Lugansk.”

“In one multi-storey block, a section has entirely collapsed. There are people under the ruins. Rescuers are working to free them,” Pasechnik said. Rescuers carried out one elderly casualty on a stretcher, footage posted by the emergency ministry showed. The Russian defence ministry said Ukraine “deliberately fired five US-made ATACMS missiles at residential districts of the city of Lugansk”. “Four American missiles were shot down by Russian air defences. One missile struck two blocks of flats,” the ministry said.__The Nation