PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron has said he is considering stripping Vladimir Putin of France’s top honor.
The Russian leader was presented with the Legion d’Honneur in 2006 by former French President Jacques Chirac.
The title is the highest French order of merit, both military and civil, and was established in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte but Macron said he is waiting for the “right moment” to strip the Russian president of the title.
He was speaking after awarding Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky the honor on Wednesday.
Macron said that the question of Putin’s medal was “symbolic but important”.
While the French president said he believed he had the right to revoke the honor, he added: “It is not a decision that I made today.”
Such decisions “are always meaningful and I think you have to appreciate the right moment to make them”, he said.
The honor was given to President Putin during a period of relatively close French-Russian relations but Putin’s invasion of Ukraine in February last year has resulted in widespread condemnation and the European Union imposing tough economic sanctions on Moscow.
While Macron has condemned the invasion, he has repeatedly spoken to Putin by phone in an effort to broker a ceasefire and negotiations.
The French attempts to maintain a dialogue with the Kremlin contrast with the US and UK positions.
Ukraine’s foreign minister hit out at Macron in October after he said it was vital that Russia was not humiliated over its invasion.
Putin is not the first controversial world leader to be handed France’s highest honor.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was decorated with the award by Chirac in 2001, shortly after taking power following the death of his father Hafez al-Assad.
The award was returned in 2018, with Syria saying al-Assad would not wear the award of a “slave” to the United States.
In 2016, then-President Francois Hollande awarded the title to former Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, citing for his “efforts in the fight against terrorism and extremism”. This was soon after Hollande had condemned mass executions in Saudi Arabia.
And it would not be the first time Macron has stripped someone of the honor. He withdrew the award from Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein after a series of accusations of sexual harassment and rape.
Ukraine’s foreign minister has hit out at French President Emmanuel Macron after he said it was vital that Russia was not humiliated over its invasion.
Macron said it was crucial President Vladimir Putin had a way out of what he called a “fundamental error” but Dmytro Kuleba said allies should “better focus on how to put Russia in its place” as it “humiliates itself”.
Macron has repeatedly spoken to Putin by phone in an effort to broker a ceasefire and negotiations.
The French attempts to maintain a dialogue with the Kremlin leader contrast with the US and UK positions.
Foreign minister Kuleba said in a tweet that “calls to avoid humiliation of Russia can only humiliate France and every other country that would call for it”. (Int’l Monitoring Desk)