Macron mulls stripping Putin of France’s top honour

Putin and Chirac in 2006

French President Emmanuel Macron has said he is considering stripping Vladimir Putin of France’s top honour.

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 Mr 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 honour on Wednesday.

Mr Macron said that the question of Mr Putin’s medal was “symbolic but important”.

While the French president said he believed he had the right to revoke the honour, 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 honour was given to President Putin during a period of relatively close French-Russian relations. But Mr 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 Mr Macron has condemned the invasion, he has repeatedly spoken to Mr 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 Mr Macron in October after he said it was vital that russia was not humiliated over its invasion.

Presidents Macron and Zelensky this week
President Macron awarded Volodymyr Zelensky the honour on Wednesday

Mr Putin is not the first controversial world leader to be handed France’s highest honour. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was decorated with the award by Mr 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 Mr 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 Mr Hollande had condemned mass executions in Saudi Arabia.

And it would not be the first time Mr Macron has stripped someone of the honour. He withdrew the award from Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein after a series of accusations of sexual harassment and rape.

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