President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday lashed out at Poland's prime minister following his criticism of the French leader's repeated talks with Russia's Vladimir Putin.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki on Monday slammed Macron's hours of phone calls with Putin, whom he likened to Hitler, and suggested they had achieved nothing.
"These statements are both baseless and scandalous," Macron told TF1 on Wednesday evening when asked about the remarks which threaten to undermine EU unity during the bloc's face-off with Moscow over Ukraine.
He said the Polish leader was from a "far-right party" and was "supporting" his rival Marine Le Pen in France's presidential election this month.
"I take full responsibility for having spoken to the president of Russia, in the name of France, to avoid the war and to build a new architecture for peace in Europe several years ago," he added.
"I did it from the beginning of my term in office," he said adding: "I was never naive, unlike others. I was never complicit, unlike others."
Macron has sought to target Le Pen's links to Russia, stressing repeatedly how she had taken a loan from a Russian bank which her National Rally party is still repaying.
Le Pen has been seeking to distance herself from Moscow, which she visited before the last election in 2017 to meet Putin.
She has lobbied for the EU to drop sanctions imposed on Russia after its annexation of the Ukrainian territory of Crimea in 2014 and has expressed admiration for Putin in the past.
Also speaking to TF1, Le Pen called for France to withdraw its ambassador from Moscow following the killing of Ukrainian civilians in the town of Bucha allegedly by Russian troops
"If there is really proof, then we need to be very firm," she said.
Polls show Le Pen gaining ground fast on Macron ahead of the first round of voting on Sunday in France's election.
- Risky diplomacy -
Macron's investment in diplomatic talks with Putin saw him surge in the polls in March, but he has since fallen back in a campaign increasingly focused on the danger of inflation in France.
In her interview on Wednesday night, Le Pen repeated her pledges to slash taxes on fuel and essential food items, while promising to ban the Muslim headscarf in all public spaces.
The eurosceptic nationalist also said she would refuse to stand in front of an EU flag for her official portrait if elected president because "my job is not to be governor of a European region."
In his comments on Monday, Poland's Morawiecki criticised several European leaders, including Macron.
"How many times have you negotiated with Putin and what have you achieved?" he said, addressing the French leader.
"We do not discuss, we do not negotiate with criminals. Criminals have to be fought against.
"Nobody negotiated with Hitler. Would you negotiate with Hitler, with Stalin, with Pol Pot?"
Morawiecki also called for new Western sanctions against Russia and compared Putin to dictators from the past.
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