French President Emmanuel Macron has urged Ukraine to offer territorial concessions to Russia in a bid to end the fighting, according to the embattled Ukrainian leader, even as invading Russian forces struggle to achieve their objectives.

"Macron wanted to see results in mediation between us ... and suggested to me certain things related to concessions on our sovereignty in order to help Putin save his face,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told an Italian media outlet, according to a Ukrainian media translation of his remarks. “We are not ready to help someone to save something and lose our territories for it.”

That characterization of Macron hearkens back to the perceived negotiating dynamics in the weeks leading up to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s campaign to overthrow the Ukrainian government, when Russian officials urged France and Germany to press Zelensky into making concessions in long-stalled peace talks as an alternative to the conflict. The resilience of Ukraine's defense forces has drawn Western leaders into providing additional weaponry and pledging their support for Ukraine’s victory in the war, and Macron has cautioned against the “humiliation” of Russia.


“Everyone is united in the opinion that it is necessary to restore the territorial integrity of Ukraine,” Zelensky said. “At least that's what European leaders, the United States, Canada, Britain, and so on, tell me.”

The discovery of mass graves outside of Kyiv and other apparent Russian war crimes prompted trans-Atlantic powers to increase their support for Ukraine. And President Joe Biden’s administration, despite its initial misgivings about whether a Russian posture could prompt Putin to use weapons of mass destruction, has adopted a bolder rhetorical posture as Russia’s battlefield defeats accumulate.

“Russia has failed to overthrow the Ukrainian Government, Russia lost the battle for Kyiv, and we’ve seen now Russia retreat and refocus its forces on Ukraine’s southeast,” State Department assistant secretary Karen Donfried, the lead U.S. envoy for Europe, told reporters Friday morning. “So our focus today is on strengthening Ukraine’s hand as much as possible on the battlefield, so that when the time does come, Ukraine has as much leverage as possible at the negotiating table. So I want to be very clear that we want to see this war end as soon as possible while supporting Ukraine’s success so that those negotiations happen on Ukraine’s terms.”

There are signs nonetheless that some leaders sense a tension between backing Ukraine and ending the conflict. Macron implied that a one-sided Ukrainian victory could repeat the mistakes of the Versailles Treaty of 1919, which brought World War I to a catastrophic conclusion for Germany yet failed to avert a second global conflict.

“So that justice prevails, we are fighting and will continue to fight against the impunity of unspeakable crimes committed by Russia in Ukraine,” the French leader said Monday. “However, we are not at war with Russia. ... In the end, when peace returns to European soil, we will need to build new security balances, and we will need, together, to never give in to the temptation of humiliation, nor the spirit of revenge, because these have already in the past wreaked enough havoc on the roads to peace.”

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi sent a similar signal in Washington this week, moments after affirming his commitment to “helping Ukraine” fend off the Russian attack.

“But I have to tell you that in Italy and in Europe now, people want to put an end to this massacres — to these massacres, to this violence, this butchery that’s happening,” Draghi said. “People think that — at least they want to think about the possibility of bringing a ceasefire and starting again some credible negotiations.”

Zelensky maintained that he would be willing to meet with Putin, who has declined to meet with him, if Russian forces retreat back into the Ukrainian territory that they held prior to the launch of the new campaign on Feb. 24.


"We understand that peace comes after every war, and even when there is a 1% chance of ending the war through dialogue and resolving a military conflict, we need to cling to it,” he said. "However, in the negotiations, we are ready to say — at least get out of the territory you occupied starting from the 24th. Yes, in some of our temporarily occupied territories, you unfortunately continue to stay. But this is the first clear step to talk about something.”