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Putin's spy chief scolds Macron for extremely dangerous remark on Ukraine

FILE PHOTO: Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) Director Sergey Naryshkin attends the opening ceremony of a monument to the victims of World War Two in Leningrad region

By Guy Faulconbridge

MOSCOW (Reuters) -Russian President Vladimir Putin's foreign intelligence chief has said French President Emmanuel Macron's refusal to rule out sending European troops to fight Russian soldiers in Ukraine was extremely dangerous and irresponsible.

Macron said last month that there was no consensus on sending European troops to fight in Ukraine but that nothing should be excluded, though the United States and other European members of the alliance have said there were no plans to do so.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has triggered the deepest crisis in Moscow's relations with the West since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, and President Vladimir Putin has warned that the West risks provoking a nuclear war if it sends troops to fight in Ukraine.

Asked about Macron's remarks, Sergei Naryshkin, the head of Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), the main successor to the KGB's First Directorate foreign spying section, said they were deeply irresponsible.

"This shows the high degree of political irresponsibility of Europe's leaders today, in this case, the president of France," Naryshkin told state television in remarks on Tuesday. "These statements are extremely dangerous."

"It is sad to see this, sad to observe and sad to understand that the ability of current elites in Europe and the North Atlantic to negotiate is at a very low level," he said. "They more and more rarely demonstrate any common sense at all."

Russia and the United States have the world's largest arsenals of nuclear weapons. President Joe Biden has cautioned that a conflict between Russia and NATO could trigger World War Three.

After the Russian invasion in 2022, Western leaders said they would help Ukraine defeat Russian troops on the battlefield and drive out Russian troops. Ukraine recaptured large swathes of territory in 2022.

But Kyiv's counteroffensive in 2023 failed to pierce heavily dug in Russian lines, and Russian forces have been pushing into Ukrainian territory just as U.S. support for Ukraine is tangled in domestic political debates.

Russia controls just under one fifth of territory internationally recognised as Ukraine.

(Reporting by Maxim Rodionov in London, Ron Popeski in Winnipeg, Canada, and Guy Faulconbridge in Moscow; Editing by Alison Williams and Gerry Doyle)