Putin allies tell Macron: Any French troops you send to Ukraine will suffer fate of Napoleon's army

  • World
  • Wednesday, 28 Feb 2024

FILE PHOTO: French President Emmanuel Macron attends a press conference at the end of the conference in support of Ukraine, with European leaders and government representatives, at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, February 26, 2024. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes/Pool/File Photo

(Reuters) - Allies of Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday warned French President Emmanuel Macron that any troops he sends to Ukraine would meet the same end as Napoleon Bonaparte's Grande Armee whose 1812 invasion of Russia ended in death and defeat.

Macron opened the door on Monday to European nations sending troops to Ukraine, although he cautioned that there was no consensus at this stage.

His comments prompted a slew of other Western countries, including the United States and Britain, to say they had no such plans, while the Kremlin warned that conflict between Russia and the U.S.-led NATO military alliance would be inevitable if European members of NATO sent troops to fight in Ukraine.

Vyacheslav Volodin, the chairman of the State Duma, the lower house of Russia's parliament and a close Putin ally, said Macron appeared to see himself as Napoleon and warned him against following in the footsteps of the French emperor.

"To maintain his personal power, Macron could not think of anything better than to ignite a third world war. His initiatives are becoming dangerous for the citizens of France," Volodin said on his official social media feed.

"Before making such statements, it would be right for Macron to remember how it ended for Napoleon and his soldiers, more than 600,000 of whom were left lying in the damp earth."

Napoleon's 1812 invasion of Russia made rapid progress initially and captured Moscow. But Russian tactics forced his Grande Armee into a long retreat and hundreds of thousands of his men died as a result of disease, starvation and cold.

The war in Ukraine has triggered the worst crisis in Russia's relations with the West since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis and Putin, who controls the world's largest nuclear arsenal, has warned of the dangers of a direct confrontation between NATO and Russia.

Macron's statement was welcomed by some outside Russia however, particularly in eastern Europe.

But former President Dmitry Medvedev, now deputy chairman of Russia's Security Council, suggested Macron had dangerous delusions of grandeur and said his statement was an example of how flawed Western political thinking had become.

"The petty and tragic heirs of Bonaparte, trying on the golden epaulettes torn off 200 years ago, are eager for revenge with Napoleonic magnitude and are spouting fierce and extremely dangerous nonsense," he said.

Medvedev, once seen as a modernising reformer, has reinvented himself since the start of the Ukraine war as an arch-hawk. He has issued a series of belligerent statements, assailing the West and warning of the risk of a nuclear apocalypse if certain red lines are crossed.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Macron's statement had revealed that other Western countries, unlike Macron, understood the risks of a direct clash between NATO troops and Russia.

"The leaders of many European governments quickly said that they were not and are not planning anything of the kind," she said.

"This shows they understand the danger."

(Reporting by Andrew Osborn; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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