President Macron: Anna of Kyiv unites Ukraine and France

Medieval Anna, Princess of Kyiv, has become a contested queen on the European presidential chessboard 

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Emmanuel Macron has effectively repudiated the claim by Vladimir Putin to 11th-century French Queen Anna, a daughter of the Great Prince of Kyiv, as allegedly “Russian” and belonging to Russia’s history.

At the meeting with his Ukrainian counterpart Petro Poroshenko this Monday, Macron pointed to the “deeply rooted” relations between France and Ukraine, tracing them back to the time when in 1051, Anna arrived in Paris from Kyiv to marry French King Henry I. Macron said that the Ukrainian president and he had paid tribute to the role of Queen Anna in their common history.

Read more: Anna of Kyiv, the French Queen from Kyivan Rus

At the end of May, Ukrainian officials and social media users mocked Putin’s attempt to “appropriate” Anna, her father, Great Prince Yaroslav the Wise, and the whole reigning house of medieval Kyiv made during his visit to Versailles. As a number of commentators rightly wrote, there had not been such a town (or even village) as Moscow in the lifetime of Anna of Kyiv (circa 1032 — after 1075). Twitter witnessed a short but stubborn quarrel between the accounts of Russia and Ukraine, each claiming their “rights” to the princess.

Meanwhile, political scientists noticed the geopolitical implications of Putin’s historical somersault in France. Saying that the dynasty ruling over Kyiv a thousand years ago was “Russian” meant the denial of separate political history to Ukraine and a bid for its territory, they stressed.

Read more: Symbolic expansion: how Putin annexes history, not only territories

Following the meetings with French statesmen on 26 June, Poroshenko arrived at the commune of Senlis (north of Paris), the final resting place of Queen Anna. There he met with the members of the Ukrainian community in France and laid flowers at the monument to Anna presented to Senlis by Ukraine in 2015.

Ukrainian leader has honored Queen Anna during his visit to France on 26 June 2017. Photo: president.gov.ua

Ukrainian leader honors Queen Anna during his visit to France on 26 June 2017. Photo: president.gov.ua

“The whole world must stay with us today in conditions of Russian aggression,” Poroshenko said in Senlis. “Even when Russians tried to steal our history, we didn’t allow that. The whole world will know Anna of Kyiv as a symbol of partnership relations between France and Ukraine, Paris and Kyiv.”

Read also: Ukraine and France to film historical drama about French princess from Kyivan Rus

During the talks in Paris, Macron and Poroshenko discussed the possible ways to intensify the peace process in Donbas within the Normandy Contact Group (Ukraine, Russia, France, and Germany) in coordination with the OSCE. “We need to understand that aggression comes from Russia,” the French president said. “We also do not recognize the illegal annexation of Crimea. We know who launched the war.”

With regards to the humanitarian side of the ongoing conflict, Petro Poroshenko raised the issue of Ukrainian political hostages unlawfully held in Russia and the Russian-occupied territories of Donbas and Crimea. Ukrainian president presented Macron with a still life painted by Roman Sushchenko, now a political hostage of the Kremlin, who had worked as Ukrainian correspondent to France for many years before being seized by the Russian special services on a private visit to Moscow.

Roman Sushchenko, who created this picture in 2001, was arrested in Russia on the false charge of “espionage” in the fall of 2016. Photo: Svyatoslav Tsegolko’s facebook

Roman Sushchenko, who created this picture in 2001, was arrested in Russia on the false charge of “espionage” in the fall of 2016. Photo: Svyatoslav Tsegolko’s facebook

Read more: Ukrainian journalist Roman Sushchenko celebrates birthday in Putin’s prison

Curiously, journalists and other Internet users from Russia found it impossible to watch the video of Macron and Poroshenko’s joint statement on the French presidential website. Some of them linked this to the anti-Putin messages the two presidents voiced at the press conference.

The Russian agency in charge of Internet censorship, Roskomnadzor, confirmed it was behind the ban. Roskomnadzor justified itself, however, saying that the access to all videos on the hosting site Dailymotion, including the one with Poroshenko and Macron, was blocked because of a supposed copyright infringement.

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