The stance has been criticised by some other leaders and commentators but defended by Macron as vital to limiting damage from the war.

He nevertheless accused Putin Sunday of wanting to return to "a Europe of empires, of domination, without respect for the integrity of borders and nations' right to decide for themselves".

Biden's Saturday remarks were far more muscular, with the US chief executive using a visit to Poland to dub Putin "a butcher" who "cannot remain in power".

The White House later scrambled to deny he was seeking "regime change" in Moscow, while the Kremlin said Biden's words could harm bilateral relations.

Macron said that he would call Putin on Monday or Tuesday to discuss a proposal from France, Greece and Turkey to evacuate Ukrainians from besieged port city Mariupol.

"There is a lot of cynicism from the Russian side on this question," Macron said.

"We're looking with the Ukrainian authorities in the city of Mariupol at how to organise the evacuation of everyone who wants to flee."

He added that "we have to do it quickly, in the very next days" given the intensity of combat and bombardments in the city.