Russian writer lashes 'criminal' West as he gets top French honour

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Russian writer lashes 'criminal' West as he gets top French honour
Russian author Andreï Makine (L) shakes hands with member of the Academie Francaise Dany Laferriere (R) before his induction ceremony at the Academie Francaise in Paris on December 15, 2016. PATRICK KOVARIK / AFP.

by Alain Jean-Robert

PARIS (AFP).- Russian novelist Andrei Makine launched a scathing attack on the West and branded the last three French presidents "arrogant ignoramuses" as he was given France's highest literary honour Thursday.

Hours after President Francois Hollande had accused Russia of reneging on its vow to safeguard civilians after the fall of the besieged Syrian city of Aleppo, the author poured scorn on what he called the "criminal" West's "strategy of chaos" in the Middle East.

"Who today would have the impudence to contest the martyrdom of so many peoples, Muslim or otherwise, on the altar of the new global order?" he asked as was inducted into the Academie Francaise.

He lambasted the US and its allies for the "half million children who were massacred" after the invasion of Iraq and "the monstrous destruction of Libya, the disaster of Syria and the barbarous pillaging of Yemen".

Makine, who writes in French even though he was born and brought up in Siberia, accused what he called the "great powers" of "playing with fire by delivering weapons into the hands of fundamentalists and pushing them into a strategy of chaos in the Middle East".

'Unthinking lackeys'
He also blamed the West for the bloodshed in eastern Ukraine, calling it "a fratricidal war orchestrated (in Kiev) by the strategic criminals of NATO and their unthinking European lackeys."

The 59-year-old won France's most prestigious literary award, the Prix Goncourt, for his 1995 novel "Dreams of My Russian Summers" just seven years after being granted political asylum there.

But he laid into every president of his adopted country since Francois Mitterrand for the "shameful arrogance with which they admit their lack of culture".

"These arrogant ignoramuses have forgotten the force of (wartime leader) General de Gaulle's pen, which like Winston Churchill should have earned him a Nobel prize for literature. They forget, these ignorants in power, that once French presidents not only read novels but knew how to write them," he added.

Makine, whose ceremonial robes were made for him by the Italian designer Giorgio Armani, was elected to the 40 "immortals" who preside over the French language in March after the death of the Algerian-born writer Assia Djebar.

Once selected, the "immortals" keep their place in the academy for life.

Sarkozy 'humiliated'
Makine, who has also written four novels under the pseudonym Gabriel Osmonde, would not be drawn on whether he supported Russian President Vladimir Putin, instead declaring himself "pro-Russia".

His speech came as documentary was due to air Thursday on French public television claiming that former French president Nicolas Sarkozy was humiliated by the Russian leader during their first meeting in 2007.

It alleges that Putin threatened to "smash" Sarkozy after he brought up his concerns about human rights abuses in Chechnya and the killing of the journalist and Kremlin critic Anna Politkovskaya, who was murdered on the Russian leader's birthday.

"Your country is this big," it claimed Putin told Sarkozy. "My country is this big," he said spreading his arms. "If you continue in this tone, I will smash you.

"You have just become president of France. I could make you the king of Europe," the Russian leader is alleged to have added.

In his speech to induct Makine to the Academie Francaise, the French writer Dominique Fernandez castigated Western media bias which he said was designed to "humiliate" Russia.

"Anyone who knows Russia a little knows how it is being slandered in our media," said the novelist, who won the Prix Goncourt in 1982.

"It is total disinformation. We talk about nothing but the mafia, corruption and the nouveau riche.

"Certainly there are faults. But are we exempt from them ourselves?" he asked.

President Hollande has been highly critical of Russia over Ukraine and Syria, but Francois Fillon, the rightwing candidate who is favourite to win May's presidential election, has a warm rapport with Putin and is eager to repair relations.

Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far-right National Front who polls predict Fillon is likely to face in the election's final round, is also pro-Putin.

© 1994-2016 Agence France-Presse

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