French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday urged for restraint when discussing the war in Ukraine, after President Joe Biden called Russia’s leader a “butcher” who should no longer remain in power.
Speaking in an interview with a French television channel, Macron warned against using such strong language when referencing the ongoing conflict.
“We want to stop the war that Russia has launched in Ukraine without escalation—that’s the objective,” Macron told France 3 TV, according to Reuters. “If this is what we want to do, we should not escalate things—neither with words nor actions.”
During a fiery speech in Warsaw, Poland, on Saturday, Biden sparked controversy when he said that “for God’s sake,” Russian President Vladimir Putin “cannot remain in power.” The statement was quickly met with indignation from the Kremlin, who said in turn that “a state leader should keep their temper.”
However, shortly after, a White House spokesperson attempted to walk back the president’s statement and clarify that he was not calling for a regime change.
“The President’s point was that Putin cannot be allowed to exercise power over his neighbors or the region,” the White House statement said. “He was not discussing Putin’s power in Russia, or regime change.”
Several Republican lawmakers in the U.S. criticized Biden for his comment, with Ohio Representative Jim Jordan calling it “war-triggering,” while Indiana Senator Jim Risch said it was a “horrendous gaffe.” Others, including Russian chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov, oppositely praised Biden for his statement and said the White House should not have backpedaled the claim.
Macron also said on Sunday that he is seeking to hold more talks with Putin in the coming days. Meanwhile, for the past four days, Biden had been traveling across Europe to meet with Ukrainian refugees, European leaders and American troops.
During his trip, the president repeatedly reasserted that the West remains united in standing with Ukraine and opposing Russia’s invasion.
“Let there be no doubt that this war has already been a strategic failure for Russia,” Biden said in his Saturday evening speech. “The West is now stronger and more united than it’s ever been.”
The war in Ukraine has been ongoing for the past month. So far, Russian forces have failed to capture any major city, but the fighting has caused widespread destruction, displaced millions of Ukrainians, and caused the deaths of over 1,100 civilians, the United Nations reported.
On Friday, a top Russian general said that troops will begin shifting their focus in the war toward “liberating” eastern Ukraine. In response, Ukraine’s military intelligence chief Kyrylo Budanov said that he believes Putin is attempting to split the country in two, similar to the division of North and South Korea after World War II.
Budanov added that Ukraine’s army would use “guerrilla” warfare and strongly push back against Russian forces to prevent that from happening.
Newsweek reached out to Russia’s and Ukraine’s foreign ministry and will update this story when a response is received.