Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy has sparked outrage in Kyiv and Paris by suggesting that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could be ended through new referendums in the occupied territories.
“The Ukrainians … want to take back what was unjustly taken from them. But if they can’t manage it completely, the choice will be between a frozen conflict … the international community,” said Sarkozy the conservative newspaper Le Figaro on Wednesday.
Speaking specifically about the Crimean peninsula, which Russia claimed to have annexed in 2014, the former French leader said “any return to how things were before is an illusion”.
“An incontestable referendum… is needed to stabilize the current state of affairs,” he added.
The former president insisted that Russian leader Vladimir Putin was “not irrational” and could be reached with the right kind of diplomacy from Europe, going back to Moscow’s 2008 invasion of Georgia when Sarkozy said he was “convinced (Putin ) to withdraw his tanks” .
“Russia is Europe’s neighbor and will remain so,” he said. “Diplomacy, discussion and talks remain the only way to find an acceptable solution. Nothing can be done without compromise.”
Sarkozy added that Ukraine should remain “neutral” and have no place in the EU or NATO.
The comments drew an immediate response from Kyiv, with Mykhailo Podolyak – a senior aide to President Volodymyr Zelensky – saying they were based on “criminal logic”.
“You cannot trade other people’s territory because you are afraid of someone or because you are friends with criminals,” Podolyak added.
While in office, Sarkozy “deliberately participated in a criminal conspiracy for Russia’s seizure of Ukrainian territories,” he charged.
The former president — who has spent much of his time since leaving office battling multiple legal cases — was also attacked at home in France.
Sarkozy “should be considered an influencer in Russia,” said Julien Bayou, a senior Green Party MP, telling broadcaster LCI that the interview was “crazy” and “shocking”.
Bayou recalled the ongoing investigation into Sarkozy’s beneficial relationship with a Russian insurance company for suspected influence-peddling and cover-up crimes.
Sarkozy’s former intelligence advisor Jerome Poirot told LCI that the former president’s words were “disgraceful”.
“He had no perspective on what happened or what he did” during his 2007-2012 term, Poirot said, recalling that Sarkozy was one of the key voices against Georgia and Ukraine joining NATO in 2008 — without would prevent later Russian invasions. in both countries.
“What are President Sarkozy’s red lines? What is his vision for the security of France? Just giving whatever Vladimir Putin wants?” he asked.