On Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin contacted French President Emmanuel Macron, in what appeared to be a far more hostile conversation than prior exchanges between the two leaders.
The 90-minute call failed to produce a diplomatic breakthrough, leaving Macron worried that “the worst is yet to come” and that Putin intends to take control of all of Ukraine, according to a senior French official.
According to Russian and Ukrainian authorities, the chat, which the French presidency stated was initiated by Putin, took place as Ukrainian officials were prepared to meet with a Russian group. According to French officials, there was no sign Thursday that a diplomatic solution was in sight based on the two leaders’ exchange.
Putin assured Macron, according to the Kremlin’s press service, that the goals of “the extraordinary military operation” — the Kremlin’s euphemism for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — “will be achieved in any event.”
“Attempts to gain time by dragging negotiations will only lead to additional requirements for Kyiv in our negotiating position,” Putin told Macron, in accordance with the readout
Putin’s words, according to a senior French official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because it is standard practise in the French administration, represented a “desire to continue the military operation and to see it through to the finish.”
Putin also took issue with Macron’s address to the public on Wednesday, in which he condemned Putin’s “brutal attack” on Ukraine and stated “Putin chose the war,” according to the Kremlin’s press service.
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Macron also called Putin’s assertions that he intends to “denazify” Ukraine “a falsehood” and an “insult to the history of Russia and Ukraine, to the memory of our elders who fought side by side against Nazism” in his speech.
Putin disagreed “with several aspects” stated in Macron’s speech, according to the Kremlin news service, and he disputed that Russia was responsible for the bombardment of major Ukrainian cities, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
Macron is the only Western leader who has maintained regular public communication with Putin since Ukraine’s invasion, in what the French presidency has described as an effort to keep the door to real dialogue open. Putin and Macron also spoke on Monday and Thursday of last week.
Macron had led Western efforts to avert an escalation of the issue through diplomatic channels prior to the invasion, flying to Moscow last month to maintain Putin’s engagement. According to the French president, the two leaders have spoken over a dozen times since mid-December. Macron has also kept in touch with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on a regular basis, most recently on Thursday after his call with Putin.