Emmanuel Macron will ‘negotiate evacuation of the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol with Vladimir Putin’

President of France Emmanuel Macron says he is working with Turkey and Greece on a “humanitarian operation” to evacuate people from the besieged Ukrainian at Mariupol.

The southeastern port of Mariupol, a city of 400,000 people before the war, has been among the worst hit by the Russian bombing.

Tens of thousands of people are still believed to be trapped there with little access to food, electricity or heat, while the city around them has been reduced to ruins.

Macron said he expects to talk to Russian President Vladimir Putin again within the next three days to discuss how to help people out of the city.

The French leader said after an EU summit in Brussels on Friday: “There was a concrete discussion today with the mayor of Mariupol. We are coordinating and we will then negotiate with the Russians.

“We will work with Turkey and Greece to launch a humanitarian operation to evacuate all those wishing to leave Mariupol.

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“I want a conversation with President Putin within the next 48 to 72 hours to complete the details and modalities. It is urgent.”

The French leader added that he hoped to “be able to involve the maximum number of stakeholders in this operation”.

Macron said French officials had spoken to Mariupol’s mayor on Friday and that the 150,000 residents left in the city were left trapped under “dramatic conditions”.

The French president’s announcement comes as Moscow on Friday signaled that it was undermining its ambitions in Ukraine to focus on territory, as Russian-backed separatists claimed in the east as Ukrainian forces went on the offensive to recapture cities outside the capital Kiev.

As the first major sign that Western sanctions against Moscow affected investment from China, the Chinese state-run Sinopec Group, Asia’s largest oil refinery, halted negotiations on a petrochemical investment and an effort to market Russian gas.

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