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French companies in Russia ‘sponsoring war machine’ says Zelensky

The Ukrainian president told the French parliament today that brands such as Renault and Auchan ‘must pull out of the Russian market’

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky delivered a speech to France's parliament today (March 23) Pic: Sergei Chuzavkov / Shutterstock

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has accused French companies Renault, Auchan, Leroy Merlin and others of being “sponsors of Russia's war machine”. 

“French companies must pull out of the Russian market,” he told French MPs and senators in a live video call today (March 23). 

“They must stop financing the deaths of children and women. Everyone must remember that principles are worth more than [financial] benefits.”

The French-owned DIY giant Leroy Merlin is looking to expand its presence in Russia to replace the other brands which have halted their operations in the country, The Telegraph reports. 

The company, which sells homeware and gardening products and is owned by the Mulliez family’s Association Familiale Mulliez, reportedly stated in the letter, seen by the UK media, that its Russian “sales have significantly increased” since President Vladimir Putin’s government began its invasion of Ukraine on February 24.

Read more: French brand Leroy Merlin accused of profiting from Ukraine war

Mr Zelensky also told the French parliament that the state of Ukrainian cities that have been targeted by Russian bombs, such as Mariupol, reminded him of the ruins of Verdun. 

Verdun was heavily bombed by German forces during World War Two. It was also the site of the longest battle of World War One, fought between February 21 and December 18, 1916. 

Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24. It has led to around four million Ukrainians fleeing the country. 

The southern port city of Mariupol has been under heavy bombardment, with around 100,000 civilians reported to be trapped there. 

Mr Zelensky said he was grateful for France’s efforts and the efforts of French President Emmanuel Macron to help the country. 

“We expect France, with your leadership and strength, to put an end to this war, which is holding back our freedom, our equality, our fraternity,” he said. 

He also called on France, in its current role as chair of the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, to back Ukraine’s accession to the European Union. 

Before delivering his speech, Mr Zelensky asked French MPs and Senators to observe a minute’s silence for the victims of the war. 

French MPs gave Mr Zelensky a standing ovation from the Assemblée nationale. 

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