Macron CHARGED: ‘Profit on principal’ as corporate giants allowed to stay in Russia | World | News

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Despite leading European diplomacy efforts with Russian Vladimir Putin, Emmanuel Macron has been harshly criticized for failing to boycott Russian markets. Ahead of a general election, the French president has been accused of playing politics and favoring profits while the Ukrainian people are suffering, with calls for further action coming from the Ukrainian president himself in an emotional plea .

Speaking via video link to France’s National Assembly last week, Volodymyr Zelensky called on French companies still operating in Russia to stop funding the ‘murder and rape of women and children’, referring to alleged atrocities committed by Russian forces in his war-torn country.

French companies are the largest foreign employers in Russia, with approximately 160,000 workers.

Overall, all were reportedly slower than their British or American counterparts in reducing their exposure to Russia, with critics saying the French president’s laissez-faire approach was to blame.

James Shields, a professor of French politics at the University of Warwick, said the French government was concerned that forcing companies out of business in Russia could mean higher prices for consumers in the country.

And with an election looming – in which Mr Macron is seeking re-election – that wouldn’t be good for the president.

Mr Shields told The Times: ‘France has left itself open to the accusation of putting profit above principle and being hypocritical in its posture towards the Kremlin and that is an accusation that Macron does not doesn’t want to be pressed too hard as he seeks re-election next time around. month.”

READ MORE: Data shows power of oligarchs with more money than Russia itself

Which companies are affected?

When Mr Zelensky addressed the Assembly, he took aim at carmakers Renault, food retailer Auchan and DIY giant Leroy Merlin.

The president’s harsh words appear to have had some impact, with Renault now agreeing to suspend manufacturing at its Russian factory, which employs 45,000 people.

But little seems to have changed. The Mulliez family – owners of Leroy Merlin, Auchan and Decathlon – said it would be “unimaginable” to halt operations in the country.

The family are estimated to be worth around €24bn (£20bn).

Leroy Merlin not only continues to operate in Russia, but has reportedly recently sought to take advantage of the crisis by writing to suppliers asking for more products after a jump in sales caused by the withdrawal of rivals.

Decathlon has been accused of similar efforts to profit from sanctions imposed due to the war.

Auchan, which has about 30,000 employees in Russia, said it plans to maintain its presence in the region. Its CEO, Yves Claude, told a French newspaper he feared the company could lose assets or expose local leaders to possible legal problems if it pulled out.

He said: “The most important thing for us is to maintain our employees and ensure our primary mission, which is to continue feeding the people of these two countries.”

Elsewhere, food giant Danone, investment bank Societe Generale and oil and gas giant TotalEnergies are among other French giants that continue to operate in Russia.

Last week, a month after Russia invaded Ukraine, TotalEnergies said it would stop buying Russian oil by the end of the year, without committing to a complete exit from the country.

By contrast, it took less than 72 hours for BP in the UK to withdraw after the invasion began, taking a financial hit of around £19billion.

While Danone said it would not make additional profits from its Russian business, it argued it had a duty of care to customers and staff by continuing to produce dairy products and infant formula.

Responding to this, Bob Seely, the Conservative MP for the Isle of Wight, said: “There is a conversation to be had about whether it is right to target the whole nation rather than specific individuals. .

“But the idea that people are going to starve because they can’t have Danone products is nonsense.”

And former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith blamed Mr Macron for the problems, saying: “At the very least, the French government should tell companies that it recommends that they do not trade in Russia. It is a violation of the spirit of the sanctions.

“Macron is trying to get his Danone yoghurt and eat it.”

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