Macron, winner of France, strengthens his arms and invests in Ukraine

PARIS (AP) — When Vladimir Putin congratulated Emmanuel Macron on his re-election as President of France and wished him “success in your activities”, the Russian leader was probably more polite than sincere.

As he begins a second term, with the intention of keeping France at the forefront of international efforts to force Putin to change course in Ukraine, Macron has given the green light to the delivery of artillery pieces modern buildings in Kyiv that could help stem the new attack in the east of the country.

Firing six rounds per minute for 40 kilometers (25 miles) or more, the truck-mounted Caesar guns will allow Ukrainian crews to hammer Russian troops from a distance, then move around and hammer them again. Used to good effect against Islamic State forces in Iraq and other conflicts, they represent a step forward in France’s aid to the government of President Volodymyr Zelensky.

In another remarkable move, Macron speaks openly about guns, lifting the veil of secrecy he had thrown over French military aid. The delivery and the publicity together signal a tougher line from Macron in his dealings with Putin – talk less and engage more on the tightrope with the Kremlin.

“At first we were a bit shy to show what was provided,” said retired General Dominique Trinquand, former head of France’s military mission to the United Nations. But “we stepped up week after week, testing the reaction.”

Macron was in the final stages of his presidential re-election campaign when he named the Caesar guns in an April 21 interview with the Ouest-France newspaper. He also mentioned the Milan anti-tank missiles, although these supplies have already been reported.

Macron did not give numbers. Citing unidentified French sources, Ouest-France said 12 Caesars would be drawn from the French arsenal and 40 Ukrainian gunners were arriving for training at a military base. in the south of France.

Macron said his “red line” still did not come into direct conflict with Russia, but within that limit “we must give maximum help to the Ukrainians.”

“We deliver substantial equipment,” he said. “We have to continue on this path.”

His Minister of the Armed Forces tweeted that thousands of shells would also be part of the delivery. Sunil Nair, an artillery systems analyst for defense publication Janes, said the guns could be used independently of each other or together as a battery.

“It gives you firepower, there’s no doubt about that,” he said. “It’s a matter of how they use it and where they use it.”

Before and after the February 24 Russian invasion, Macron had kept an open line with Putin. But the horrors uncovered by Ukrainian troops as they regained control of villages near kyiv once the Russian soldiers withdrew, Macron paused. His office said last week that the two leaders had not spoken since March 29.

Macron says he will eventually have to pick up the phone because not talking to Putin will allow the leaders of China, India and Turkey to take the lead in negotiating peace when the time comes.

“We will have to prepare a ceasefire at some point, and Europe will have to be around the table,” Macron said last week.

In the meantime, French guns will do the talking – in hopes of adding pressure on Putin.

“The best way to have fruitful talks is to have Ukrainians who succeed in repelling the Russian invasion,” said Francois Heisbourg, French analyst on defense and security issues at the International Institute for Strategic Studies. .

The Caesars will allow their crews to hunt for Russian artillery pieces used in eastern Ukraine that indiscriminately strike civilian targets.

“Americans, Poles, Slovaks, Belgians, French and Canadians are all sending heavy artillery to the Ukrainians,” Heisbourg said.

“This is a very, very big improvement in Ukraine’s situation in the new phase of the war.”

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Associated Press writers Sylvie Corbet and Angela Charlton contributed.

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Follow AP coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine and the French election on https://apnews.com/hub/french-election-2022

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