French President Emmanuel Macron met his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv, along with heads of other European nations, amid support for the war-torn country’s inclusion into the European Union (EU). However, an awkward photograph of Macron hugging Zelensky, after the meeting, has gone viral on the internet, sparking a meme fest. 

Agence France-Presse photographer Ludovic Marin took the photograph, which appeared on the front pages of several newspapers, becoming comic content in Ukraine and beyond. 

While it appears that the French president is hugging Zelensky, who’s not reciprocating, Marin stated that Macron was saying something in the Ukrainian chief’s ear. 

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“Why is Zelensky looking at us? I don’t know”, Marin, who’s been AFP’s chief photographer covering Macron for five years, said, adding “It’s true that there’s a difference in the way they look which is very striking.” 

The photographer concluded, “Obviously everyone was trying to interpret the warmth between them after the exchanges that have taken place”, as per RFI, the French news outlet. 

The two also shared a handshake, which appeared more like an arm wrestle. 

While the handshake has been commented on, the photo of the hug has become the butt of jokes, with Ukraine-based reporter Tanya Kozyreva jokingly putting words in Macron’s mouth, on Twitter, saying “Me talking to him doesn’t mean anything, I’ve always loved you”. 

There had been tension, previously, between Zelensky and Macron over the French leader’s stance on not “humiliating” Russia, much to Kyiv’s dismay. However, the Ukrainian president said that two had “turned the page” since then. 

Another Twitter user imagined the conversation to meander towards food Zelensky must try, while visiting Lyon in France. 

One Twitter user juxtaposed the image next to a popular meme format of a male chatting up a female at a party, with the former being uncomfortably close, and the latter looking disinterested and discomforted. 

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This isn’t the first time Macron’s behaviour with world leaders has come into the spotlight. The French president earlier engaged in handshake battles with former US President Donald Trump, to show he wouldn’t be intimidated. 

One such encounter lasted for 29 seconds, and as per RFI, photos from the 2018 G7 summit in Canada, show how Macron turned part of Trump’s hand pale, with his grip.