The surprising presence of the French ambassador at the inauguration of Vladimir Putin

The surprising presence of the French ambassador at the inauguration of Vladimir Putin
The surprising presence of the French ambassador at the inauguration of Vladimir Putin

Lhe presence of the French ambassador, Pierre Lévy, among the rare Western diplomats who agreed to attend the inauguration ceremony of President Vladimir Putin, in Moscow, Tuesday May 7, was surprising, for several reasons.

The first is that the election thanks to which Mr. Putin obtained a fifth presidential term by 88.5% of the votes, from March 15 to 17, took place in conditions so undemocratic that France, like most of Western countries, simply took note, emphasizing that Russian voters had been deprived of a real choice and firmly condemning the context of repression in which it was held. For the record, the opponent Alexeï Navalny had died a month earlier in prison, in mid-February, in conditions which have never been clarified – Mr. Lévy had also attended, with his Western colleagues, the funeral of the opponent in Moscow. It is therefore all the more paradoxical that France sends its ambassador to endorse, through his presence, an election whose conditions it disapproves of.

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The second reason is that the vast majority of Western countries boycotted this ceremony. Apart from France, no G7 country was represented. As for the countries of the European Union (EU), the French ambassador found himself in the company of only his colleagues from Hungary, Slovakia – whose complacency towards Moscow is known –, Malta, Cyprus and Greece.

The EU ambassador ostensibly stayed at home. Germany, for its part, chose to recall its ambassador to Berlin for consultations in order to mark its condemnation of cyberattacks attributed to Russia. At a time when France continues to advocate and promote European unity, breaking ranks in this way amounts to sending an incomprehensible signal of division. Russian state media did not hesitate to highlight this.

Ambiguity

The third reason is that, the day before the inauguration ceremony, the same French ambassador was summoned to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, for the third time since the start of 2024, to be reproached for the policy “provocative” French authorities. The Quai d’Orsay had opportunely denounced this “diversion of diplomatic channels for the purposes of information manipulation and intimidation”. Honoring the Kremlin with its presence twenty-four hours after being scolded by its government is a strange way of showing France’s indignation.

The fourth reason, finally, and not the least, is that this president, enthroned on Tuesday like a tsar by Patriarch Kirill, had, on February 24, 2022, invaded Ukraine, an independent state, for no reason and has since been waging a war of large-scale aggression that shakes the entire European continent. Around fifty countries, including France, are involved in providing military aid to Ukraine against Russia. Mr. Putin is the subject of an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court for war crimes.

By way of justification for the presence of its ambassador on Tuesday, Paris argued that France did not wish “cut all bridges” with Russia. Preserving communication channels in times of war can indeed be useful. But doing it in this way, without coordination with our European partners, at the precise moment when Russia is raising its voice by once again raising the nuclear threat, contradicts the very firm position displayed by France in recent months and is more a matter of ambiguity than strategy.

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