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Borrell sparks Catalonia backlash over Zelenskyy-Puigdemont comparison

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By Euronews  with EFE
European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell speaks at the EU headquarters in Brussels.
European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell speaks at the EU headquarters in Brussels.   -   Copyright  Stephanie Lecocq, Pool Photo via AP

The European Union's foreign policy chief has sparked a backlash by comparing Ukraine's president to the former president of Catalonia's government.

Josep Borrell once again praised the courage of Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelenskyy but seemingly contrasted his actions to Carles Puigdemont.

"Zelenskyy is not the kind of leader who flees hiding in a car," Borrell told a press conference on Monday.

"He stays there resisting and we have to support him," the EU official added.

The phrase seemingly makes reference to reports about how Puigdemont fled Catalonia for Belgium in 2017 after the region declared independence.

The former Catalonian leader is alleged to have fled to Marseille in France, hidden in a car, before flying to Brussels. Puigdemont has always denied the rumours and says that he left Spain by car in the direction of Belgium.

Borrell's comments have gone viral in Spain and generated an angry reaction from the pro-Catalan independence movement.

On Monday, the spokeswoman for Puigdemont's JuntsxCat party called for the high representative's role to be "reviewed" when the current war situation in Ukraine ends due to his "frivolity" and "lack of leadership".

Puigdemont himself responded on Twitter that Borrell's comments were the words of an "irresponsible representative".

The EU foreign policy chief -- a former Spanish foreign minister -- has been a strong opponent of Catalonia's independence.