MARIUOPOL – As Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias hopes to lead a humanitarian mission to the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol being attacked by Russian invaders, French President Emmanuel Macron said he wants to help get residents out, including some 150,000 ethnic Greeks.
He said he’s trying to coordinate that effort not only with Greece, but with Turkey – which has emerged as trying to help negotiate an end to the war helping both Russian and Ukraine and refusing to impose European Union sanctions while still trying to join the bloc.
That has elevated the standing of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan although his country, like Greece, is a member of NATO whose security has been undermined by Turkey buying Russian S-400 missile defense systems that could be used against Greece in a conflict.
Turkey, supporting Russia’s invasion by rejecting sanctions and still doing business with Russia – as is the EU in oil and gas imports and Greece’s shipping sector – has been supplying Ukraine with drones to take out Russian targets, playing both sides against the middle.
While Turkey has been involved in trying to get Russia to back off, Macron said he also wants to talk to Russian President Vladmir Putin, who has become an international pariah and shutting down independent media and jailing anti-war protesters.
Mariupol, a city of 400,000 before the war, has been among the worst hit by the Russian bombardment, said Reuters in a report on Macron’s involvement although it wasn’t specified with whom he’s dealing in Greece and Turkey.
Tens of thousands of people are still believed to be trapped with little access to food, power or heat, while the city around them has been reduced to ruins, said the news agency, NATO, the US and UN essentially helpless to do anything to speed an end to the war.
“There was a concrete discussion … with the Mayor of Mariupol. We are coordinating and we will then negotiate with the Russians,” Macron told reporters after an EU meeting in Brussels that was split and failed to put sanctions on Russian energy on which the bloc depends.
“The quickest possible, we hope in the next few days. I will have a conversation with President Putin in the next 48 to 72 hours to finalize the details and modalities. It is urgent,” added Macron on March 25, no sign yet it’s working.
But Putin, seeing his army facing resistance and unable to gain air superiority against tenacious defenders even taunting Russian soldiers with yells to “Go home while you’re still alive!” said he will scale back the attacks to concentrate on areas claimed by Russian-backed separatists.