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Ukraine War Briefing: Macron Says Don’t Be ‘cowards’ As He Digs In Over Ground Troops Remark

Emmanuel Macron has urged Ukraine’s allies not to be “cowards” in supporting its fight against the Russian invasion. He “fully stood behind” remarks made last week not ruling out the deployment of western troops. “We are surely approaching a moment for Europe in which it will be necessary not to be cowards,” the French president said on a visit to the Czech Republic.

Speaking after meeting his Czech counterpart, Petr Pavel, Macron asked: “Is this or is it not our war? Can we look away in the belief that we can let things run their course? I don’t believe so, and therefore I called for a strategic surge and I fully stand behind that … We want no escalation, we’ve never been belligerent.”

Germany’s defence minister, Boris Pistorius, said Macron’s quotes were not helpful. “We don’t need really, from my perspective at least, discussions about boots on the ground or having more courage or less courage.”

Pavel, a former Nato general, said the west would not cross “the imaginary red line” by getting involved in combat operations but suggested Nato countries could, for instance, train Ukrainian soldiers in Ukraine, which would be “no violation of international rules”.

Macron met Pavel to discuss the Czech plan to buy ammunition for Ukraine outside Europe. Macron said France backed the plan and also supported using earnings from frozen Russian assets in Europe to fund Ukraine’s defence while not touching the capital.

Ukraine has sunk a Russian warship near the Kerch strait in occupied Crimea in a further blow to Moscow’s naval power and its control over the Black Sea. Kyiv’s military intelligence agency, the HUR, said it attacked the Sergei Kotov on Tuesday using naval drones. The vessel, which was on patrol, suffered damage to the stern, right and left sides, then sank, said the HUR.

The international criminal court in The Hague has issued arrest warrants for two senior Russian military figures deemed responsible for missile attacks on Ukrainian energy infrastructure between October 2022 and March 2023. They are for Lt Gen Sergei Ivanovich Kobylash of the Russian armed forces and Adm Viktor Kinolayevich Sokolov of the Russian navy.

David Slater, the former US air force employee charged with sharing classified Ukraine war information on a foreign dating website, has pleaded not guilty at a court appearance in Omaha, Nebraska.

The European Commission has proposed a new €1.5bn defence industry programme, which would be financed from the EU budget for the period between 2025 and 2027. The new programme calls on the 27 EU member states to procure at least 40% of their defence equipment collectively by 2030.

Ukrainian authorities are pressing up to 10 EU member states to allow the extradition of criminals to Ukraine including suspects involved with the Wagner group and those accused of large-scale corruption.

Russia has strengthened its military forces in its north and west to counter what the government perceives as a buildup of Nato forces, its defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, has said. In response to Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine, Finland has joined Nato and Sweden is on the point of doing so. Nato is this week conducting a military exercise called Nordic Response 2024 which it says will involve more than 20,000 soldiers in Norway, Finland and Sweden and will focus on collective defence.

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