“The Ukrainians… will want to reconquer what has been unjustly taken from them. But if they can’t manage it completely, the choice will be between a frozen conflict… or taking the high road out with referendums overseen by the international community,” he told newspaper Le Figaro on Wednesday. Speaking on the Crimean peninsula, the former French leader said “any return to the way things were before is an illusion”. “An incontestable referendum… will be needed to solidify the current state of affairs.”
Sarkozy insisted that Russian leader Vladimir Putin was “not irrational” and could be reached with the right kind of diplomacy. “Russia is Europe’s neighbour and will remain so. Diplomacy, discussion and talks remain the only way to find an acceptable solution. Nothing is possible without compromise.” He said Ukraine should remain “neutral” and had no place in EU or Nato.
Mykhailo Podolyak, a senior aide to President Volodymyr Zelensky, said Sarkozy’s remarks were based on “criminal logic”. “You can’t trade other people’s territories because you are afraid of someone or because you are friends with criminals,” he added.
Sarkozy “should be considered a Russian influencer”, said Julien Bayou, a Green Party MP in France. He recalled an ongoing probe into Sarkozy’s ties to a Russian insurance company on suspicion of influence peddling and concealing crimes.