Macron discusses new ways to help Ukraine on Prague visit

Emmanuel Macron and Petr Pavel

France’s president Emmanuel Macron recently refused to rule out the deployment of Western troops to Ukraine and that position appeared to find support from his Czech counterpart in Prague on Tuesday. Petr Pavel said combat troops could not be deployed – but sending instructors to the war-ravaged country was an option.

Petr Pavel and Emmanuel Macron | Photo: Michaela Říhová,  ČTK

The Czech President Petr Pavel welcomed France’s head of state, Emmanuel Macron, to Prague Castle just before noon on Tuesday.

The two leaders then conducted longer than anticipated behind closed doors talks, with support for Ukraine dominating proceedings.

Speaking to the media afterward, Mr. Macron reiterated that Russia must not be allowed to triumph.

“Who launched the war in Ukraine? Vladimir Putin. Who threatens us – whatever we do, whatever we say – with nuclear weapons? President Putin. If every day we explain what our limits are in the face of someone who has none, and launched this war, I can already tell you that the spirit of defeat is lurking there. But not among us.”

Mr. Macron also said his officials would continue to speak to Prague about contributing to a Czech initiative to deliver hundreds of thousands of rounds of ammunition to Ukraine from outside the EU or NATO – and funded by other states. About 15 have already voiced support.

Petr Pavel and Emmanuel Macron | Photo: Michaela Říhová,  ČTK

Just last week the French president surprised many around Europe by refusing to rule out sending Western troops to Ukraine. In Prague on Tuesday he said he stood behind those comments – and urged Ukraine’s allies “not to be cowardly” in efforts to help Kyiv fight off the Russian invasion.

Czech President Petr Pavel, a former chair of NATO’s Military Committee, said he and Mr. Macron were in accord that Europe had to play a greater role in helping Ukraine.

And he also said it made little difference where allies trained soldiers in Ukraine itself or in their own states.

“Though Ukraine has been attacked, it is still a sovereign state. And if a training mission was held on its territory that would not be a breach of international rules. And it is up to us alone what form of assistance to Ukraine we choose – if we remain within the limits of non-combat engagement. It’s time for us to weigh up all the available possibilities with open minds – not to rule out any presence a priori.”

Emmanuel Macron and Petr Fiala | Photo: Kateřina Šulová,  ČTK

While in Prague Mr. Macron also held talks with the Czech prime minister, Petr Fiala, who has said the country would not send soldiers to Ukraine.

The two leaders signed a strategic partnership plan focused on a number of areas that will remain in place until 2028.

Also during Mr. Macron’s visit Czech semi-state power giant ČEZ signed a contract for France’s Orano to handle uranium enrichment at the Dukovany power plant, a contract previously held by a Russia firm. Orana already provides this service to Czechia’s other nuclear power station, Temelín.