BREAKING: France asks citizens to leave Russia

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France “strongly” asked its citizens on Thursday to leave Russia if their presence there was “not essential” following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine and the closure of airspace between Russia and the European Union.

“In the context of the invasion of Ukraine by Russia and following the imposition of international sanctions, we must increase our vigilance,” the foreign ministry wrote on its website. Already on Sunday, Paris had recommended French citizens passing through Russia to leave the country.

This is coming after French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire declared an “all-out economic and financial war” against Russia to bring down the its economy as punishment for invading Ukraine, before rowing back on language he later said was inappropriate.

The United States and its allies have imposed sanctions on Russia’s central bank, oligarchs and officials, including President Vladimir Putin himself, and barred some Russian banks from the SWIFT international payments system.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire described the sanctions packages as proving “extremely effective”.

“We’re waging an all-out economic and financial war on Russia,” Le Maire told France Info radio. “We will cause the collapse of the Russian economy.”

Le Maire later told French news agency AFP he had misspoken and that the term “war” was not compatible with France’s efforts to de-escalate tensions surrounding the Ukraine conflict.

“We are not in a battle against the Russian people,” the minister added.

In a matter of weeks, Russia has turned from a lucrative bet on surging oil prices to an uninvestable market with a central bank hamstrung by sanctions, major banks shut out of the international payments system and capital controls choking off money flows.

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