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Former French prime minister Francois Fillon arrives to attend a church service in Paris, on Sept. 30, 2019.ERIC FEFERBERG/AFP/Getty Images

Former French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said on Friday he had resigned from the boards of two Russian firms in protest over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“This is a collective failure, but in the hierarchy of responsibilities, Vladimir Putin alone is guilty of having started a preventable conflict,” Fillon wrote in an opinion piece for French weekly paper Le Journal du Dimanche.

He said that in such conditions, he could not continue being a member of the boards of Russian firms Zarubezhneft and Sibur.

Fillon, who served as premier under president Nicolas Sarkozy from 2007-2012, joined Sibur, Russia’s largest petrochemical producer, at the end of 2021.

Large Russian corporations frequently employ former high-ranking European politicians for their ties and influence.

The practice has sparked sharp criticism since the Ukraine invasion and French opposition politicians had called on Fillon to resign from his Russian posts.

Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder – who is a board member at Russian oil giant Rosneft and heads the shareholders committee of the company that is in charge of building the Nord Stream 2 pipeline – said on Thursday that mistakes have been made on both sides of the conflict and called on Europe not to cut its remaining ties with Russia. Fillon withdrew from French politics following an unsuccessful run in the 2017 presidential election and a series of scandals involving the use of state funds.

A court found Fillon guilty in 2020 of a scam in which he allegedly paid his wife about €1-million ($1.1-million) over a period of years for minimal work as his parliamentary assistant.

As he appeals against the five-year jail sentence in that case, a second probe over financial misconduct has been opened against him.

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