The boss of Volkswagen has called for the EU to pursue a negotiated settlement to the war in Ukraine for the sake of the continent’s economy, in an intervention that challenges the stance taken by European leaders.

“I think we should do the utmost to really stop this war and get back to negotiations and get back to trying to open up the world again,” Herbert Diess told the Financial Times’ Future of the Car summit on Monday.

“I think we should not give up on open markets and free trade and I think we should not give up on negotiating and trying to settle.”

He spoke as Vladimir Putin claimed Russia was forced to “strike back pre-emptively” against Ukraine, adding that the Kremlin’s troops were “fighting on their own land” in the conflict, just as Soviet forces did in the second world war.

In his speech at the annual Victory Day parade in Moscow’s Red Square, Russia’s president hinted that he would lay…

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