Macron says France will spearhead operation to evacuate Mariupol

French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday said France would spearhead an “exceptional humanitarian operation” alongside Turkey and Greece to evacuate the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, which has been under siege by Russian forces for three weeks.

“We are going to launch a humanitarian operation in conjunction with Turkey and Greece to evacuate all those who wish to leave Mariupol,” Macron told reporters following a two-day European Council summit.

Macron gave few details but said the operation would take place “the earlier the better,” and would be conducted “in coordination” with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian authorities. The French leader also said he was in touch with the mayor of Mariupol.

The French leader also said he would discuss theMariupol operation with Russian President Vladimir Putin“within 48 to 72 hours.”

“I hope to be able to engage a maximum of stakeholders in this operation,” Macron said.

More than 100,000 people remain stranded in Mariupol, which is under near-continuous bombardment by Russian forces.

“I have a very special thought for the residents of Mariupol who are going through one of the greatest dramas,” Macron said. “That city of more than 400,000 residents today has only 150,000 who live there in dramatic situations.”

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis confirmed on Friday that the operation was under discussion. He added that the Ukrainian city, which is home to a large Greek community, “is being tested by an unprecedented Russian attack which, unfortunately, makes no distinction between Ukrainian troops and civilians.”

Nektaria Stamouli contributed reporting.

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