French military spy chief exits over Ukraine failings: sources

Paris - France’s military intelligence chief is leaving his post after Paris failed to accurately predict in contrast to other Western allies that Russia would launch a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, several sources with knowledge of his exit said.

General Eric Vidaud, who has led the Direction of Military Intelligence (DRM) since only last summer, is to immediately step down from his post, a military source, who asked not to be named, told AFP.

The source confirmed a report on the l’Opinion website citing an internal defence ministry investigation that criticised “insufficient briefings” and “failure to master the issues.” Another source told AFP that there had been rumours within the army concerning the departure of the general in recent days, with it possible that another post could have been offered to him, though in the end this was not the case.

In the months before the invasion of Ukraine by Russian President Vladimir Putin on February 24, France’s assessments had contrasted with the gloomy predictions by allies including the US and Britain who warned a major military assault was imminent.

Senior figures from President Emmanuel Macron’s government insisted there was no suggestion of a full-scale invasion and Macron kept diplomacy going to the last minute, meeting Putin in person in the Kremlin and trying to set up a summit with US President Joe Biden.

The issue is particularly sensitive as Macron has largely avoided campaigning for the presidential election in April to focus on dealing with the war, aiming to burnish his image as a global statesman.

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