PARIS (Reuters) - French President Emmanuel Macron said it is vital that Russia is not humiliated so that when the fighting stops in Ukraine a diplomatic solution can be found, adding that he believed Paris would play a mediating role to end the conflict.
Macron has sought to maintain a dialogue with Russian President Vladimir Putin since Moscow's invasion of Ukraine in February. His stance has been repeatedly criticised by some eastern and Baltic partners in Europe, as they see it as undermining efforts to pressure Putin to the negotiating table.
"We must not humiliate Russia so that the day when the fighting stops we can build an exit ramp through diplomatic means," Macron said in an interview to regional newspapers published on Saturday. "I am convinced that it is France's role to be a mediating power."
Macron has spoken with Putin regularly since the invasion as part of efforts to achieve a ceasefire and begin a credible negotiation between Kyiv and Moscow.
"I think, and I told him, that he is making a historic and fundamental mistake for his people, for himself and for history," Macron said.
France has supported Ukraine militarily and financially, but until now Macron has not been to Kyiv to offer symbolic political support like other EU leaders, something Ukraine has wanted him to do. Macron said he had not ruled out going.
Paris sends offensive weapons including Caesar howitzer canon taken from French army stocks. Macron said he had asked weapons manufacturers to accelerate production.
(Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Frances Kerry)