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Czech and French leaders pledge support to Ukraine and look for new ways to help

PRAGUE (AP) — The Czech and French presidents said Tuesday that their countries remain united in supporting Ukraine in the fight against Russian aggression and are willing to look for new ways to help Ukrainians succeed.

“We agree that the only option for us is to continue supporting Ukraine,” the Czech president said Peter Pavel said. “We agree that Europe must play a greater role in helping Ukraine.”

Pavel said all options should be considered but ruled out deploying combat troops in Ukraine, an idea floated by French President Emmanuel Macron last week and sparking outrage from other leaders.

“We didn’t talk about it at all,” Pavel said. “We are talking about different forms of assistance.” He suggested that the training of Ukrainian soldiers might take place in Ukraine despite the war.

French officials had sought to clarify Macron’s earlier comments about Western troops on the ground in Ukraine, while emphasizing the need to send a clear signal to Russia that it cannot win in Ukraine.

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“We must all be aware that this war affects us all,” Macron said in Prague. He said European countries cannot impose restrictions on themselves if Russia has no borders, including threatening to use nuclear weapons.

“It is a strategic leap that I asked for and fully embrace,” Macron said. “We have to be rational about the reality of the situation happening in Europe.”

“I am convinced that the clarity of these words is exactly what Europe needed,” he said. “Ask President (Vladimir) Putin what he is willing not to do. Who started the war in Ukraine? Vladimir Putin, who threatens everything we do, whatever we say, with nuclear weapons?”

The Kremlin has warned that if NATO sends combat troops, direct conflict between the alliance and Russia would be inevitable.

Macron welcomed a Czech plan to acquire ammunition that Ukraine desperately needs from countries outside the European Union and promised support from France.

Pavel announced at a security conference in Munich last month that the Czechs had identified 800,000 artillery ammunition in several countries and were seeking financing for their purchase.

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About fifteen countries have expressed support for the plan, the Czech government said. This also includes Great Britain, Belgium, Denmark, Canada, Sweden and the Netherlands.

Macron was due to meet Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala later Tuesday to discuss boosting cooperation in nuclear energy and other areas.

Unlike some other European countries, such as Germany and Austria, the Czech Republic and France are both heavily dependent on nuclear energy.

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Associated Press writer Barbara Surk in Nice, France, contributed to this report.

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