MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia on Sunday scolded Emmanuel Macron over remarks about wanting to see Russia defeated, saying Moscow still remembered the fate of Napoleon Bonaparte and accusing the French president of duplicitous diplomacy with the Kremlin.
Macron told paper Le Journal du Dimanche France wanted Russia to be defeated in Ukraine but had never wanted to "crush" it.
"About 'Never': France did not begin with Macron, and the remains of Napoleon, revered at the state level, rest in the centre of Paris. France - and Russia - should understand," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.
"In general, Macron is priceless," she said, adding that his remarks showed the West had engaged in discussions about regime change in Russia while Macron had repeatedly sought meetings with the Russian leadership.
Macron has drawn criticism from some NATO allies for delivering mixed messages regarding his policy on the war between Ukraine and Russia, with some considering Paris a weak link in the Western alliance.
On Friday, Macron urged allies to step up military support for Ukraine, but also said he did not believe in regime change and that there would have to be negotiations at some point.
"Let’s be clear, I don't believe for one second in regime change, and when I hear a lot of people calling for regime change I ask them, 'For which change? Who’s next? Who is your leader?'"
Clarifying those comments, he said in the paper that he did not believe a democratic solution from within civil society would emerge in Russia after years of a hardening of Moscow's position and conflict. He added that he saw no alternative to Putin, who had to be brought back to the negotiating table.
"All the options other than Vladimir Putin in the current system seem worse to me," Macron said.
(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge in Moscow and John Irish in Munich; Editing by Hugh Lawson)
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. What is the connection between Russia and France?
A. France and Russia have a complicated history, but despite their differences, the two countries have maintained a dialogue on various issues. Macron has met with Putin several times, and they have discussed counterterrorism and the Syrian conflict
Q. Did Russia support the French Revolution?
A. Russia was not in support of the French Revolution and joined a coalition of European powers that declared war on France in an attempt to suppress it. Despite several defeats, Russia continued to oppose the revolutionary ideals of France.