BRUSSELS — Emmanuel Macron, the president of France, had just finished speaking at a major conference on Europe.
As he lingered on stage, enjoying admiration and taking pictures with fans, little did he know that two young women in the back of the room were watching him closely.
“There are no metal barriers,” whispered Dominika Lasota. “This is our chance.”
She and her activist comrade, Wiktoria Jedroszkowiak, rose quickly. They clicked on a camera. They marched to Mr Macron, who greeted them with a charming smile, apparently thinking they just wanted a selfie.
But then they shot at him with questions about a controversial new pipeline in Uganda (which the French oil company Total is helping build) and the war in Ukraine.
“My point is…” Mr Macron tried to say.
“I know your point,” Mrs. Lasota, 20, said, interrupting him. “But we live in a climate crisis and you have to stop it.”
Ms. Jedroszkowiak, also 20, then jumped in and said, “You can stop the war in Ukraine by stopping buying fossil fuels from Russia.”
“Yes,” Mr Macron muttered, before being overwhelmed by a host of other questions.
This is a different kind of activist – young, mostly female and mostly from Eastern Europe – who believes that the war in Ukraine is a brutal manifestation of the world’s reliance on fossil fuels. They have joined two causes – anti-war activism and climate change – to take full advantage of this moment when the world’s attention is focused on Ukraine. And to make their case, they confront European leaders face-to-face.