PARIS - France’s former president Nicolas Sarkozy has stirred outrage in Kyiv and Paris by suggesting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could be ended with new referendums in occupied territories. “The Ukrainians... will want to reconquer what has been unjustly taken from them,” Sarkozy told conservative newspaper Le Figaro on Wednesday.
“But if they can’t manage it completely, the choice will be between a frozen conflict... or taking the high road out with referendums strictly overseen by the international community.” Speaking particularly about the Crimean peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014, the former French leader said that “any return to the way things were before is an illusion.
“An incontestable referendum... will be needed to solidify the current state of affairs,” he added. Sarkozy insisted that Russian leader Vladimir Putin was “not irrational”. He argued the Russian president could be reached with the right kind of diplomacy from Europe, harking back to Moscow’s 2008 invasion of Georgia when he said he had “convinced (Putin) to withdraw his tanks”. “Russia is Europe’s neighbour and will remain so,” he said. “Diplomacy, discussion and talks remain the only way to find an acceptable solution. Nothing is possible without compromise.” Sarkozy also argued that Ukraine should remain “neutral” and had no place in the EU or NATO.