French President Emmanuel Macron refused to describe Russian actions in Ukraine as "genocide" in a television interview with public broadcaster France 2.
Asked whether he, like US President Joe Biden, would use the term "genocide" for the killing of Ukrainians by the Russian military, Macron said: “I would be careful with such terms today because these two peoples [Russians and Ukrainians] are brothers.”
“I want to continue to try, as much as I can, to stop this war and rebuild peace. I am not sure that an escalation of rhetoric serves that cause,” he added.
“What we can say for sure is that the situation is unacceptable and that these are war crimes. We are living through war crimes that are unprecedented on our soil — our European soil.”
The French President, who is currently running for re-election, also noted France’s cooperation with Ukraine to investigate the alleged war crimes.
“Russia has unilaterally started an extremely brutal war, it has now been established that the Russian army has committed war crimes and we must now find those who are responsible,” Macron said.
Some context: Biden said Tuesday the atrocities being uncovered in Ukraine qualify as genocide, saying "it’s become clearer and clearer that (Russian President Vladimir) Putin is just trying to wipe out even the idea of being Ukrainian."
It was a dramatic rhetorical escalation in the US view of what is happening on the ground in Ukraine, which Biden has previously deemed war crimes.
The US designation does not carry any legal ramifications but does carry significant weight as Biden seeks to rally countries behind a strategy of isolating and punishing Moscow.
Other world leaders, such as the UK's Boris Johnson and Poland's Andrzej Duda, have also used the word "genocide" to describe Russian actions in Ukraine.