Extraordinary argument between Macron and Putin four days before war revealed to Russia’s fury

Emmanuel Macron: Since our last conversation, tensions have continued to grow and you know my commitment and my determination to continue the dialogue. I would like you to give me your reading of the situation first and perhaps quite directly as we both tell me what your intentions are. And then afterwards, I wanted to try to see if there were still useful actions to be taken and to make some suggestions to you.

Vladimir Putin: What could I say? You see yourself what is happening. You and Chancellor Scholz told me that Zelensky was ready to make a move, that he had prepared a bill to implement the Minsk Accords… In fact, our dear colleague, Mr. Zelensky, does nothing. He is lying to you… I don’t know if you heard his statement yesterday where he said that Ukraine must have access to atomic weapons.

I also heard your comments during the press conference in Kyiv on February 8. You said that the Minsk Accords must be revised, I quote, ‘so that they are applicable’.

Emmanuel Macron: Vladimir, first of all, I never said that the Minsk Accords had to be revised. I never said it, neither in Berlin, nor in Kyiv, nor in Paris. I said that they had to be applied, that things had to be respected, and I don’t have the same reading as you of the last days.

Vladimir Putin: Listen Emmanuel, I don’t understand your problem with the separatists. They at least did everything necessary, at our insistence, to open a constructive dialogue with the Ukrainian authorities.

Emmanuel Macron: Regarding what you said, Vladimir, several remarks: firstly, the Minsk Agreements are a dialogue with you, you are absolutely right. In this context, it is not expected that the basis of the discussion will be a text submitted by the separatists. And so, when your negotiator tries to force the Ukrainians to discuss on the basis of the separatists’ roadmaps, he is not respecting the Minsk Accords. It is not separatists who are going to make proposals on Ukrainian laws!

Vladimir Putin: Of course, we have a completely different reading of the situation. During our last interview, I reminded you of and even read articles 9, 11 and 12 of the Minsk Accords.

Emmanuel Macron: I have them in front of me! It is well written that the government of Ukraine – paragraph 9, etc. – proposes, and that it is in consultation and in agreement with the representatives of certain districts of the regions of Donetsk and Lugansk, within the framework of the tripartite contact group. This is exactly what we propose to do. So I don’t know where your lawyer learned the law. Me, I just look at the texts and I try to apply them! And I don’t know what lawyer will be able to tell you that in a sovereign country, the texts of laws are proposed by separatist groups and not by the democratically elected authorities.

Vladimir Putin: This is not a democratically elected government. They came to power in a coup, there were people burned alive, it was a bloodbath and Zelensky is one of those responsible.

Listen to me carefully: the principle of dialogue is to take into account the interests of the other party. The proposals exist, the separatists, as you call them, transmitted them to the Ukrainians but they received no response. Where is the dialogue?

Emmanuel Macron: But because, as I just told you, we don’t give a damn about the separatists’ proposals. What we are asking them is to react to the texts of the Ukrainians and things have to be done in this way because it is the law! What you have just said casts doubt, somewhere, on your own will to respect the Minsk Accords, if you judge that you are dealing with illegitimate and terrorist authorities.

Vladimir PutinListen to me carefully. You hear me? I tell you again, the separatists, as you call them, reacted to the proposals of the Ukrainian authorities. They responded but these same authorities did not follow up.

Emmanuel Macron: So OK, on the basis of their response to the texts of the Ukrainians, what I propose to you is that we demand from all the parties a meeting within the framework of the contact group in order to continue moving forward. Tomorrow, we can ask for this work to be done and demand that all stakeholders do not have an empty chair policy. However, the last two days, the separatists did not want to lend themselves to this discussion. Me, I will immediately demand that of Zelensky. Do we agree on that? If we agree, I launch it and I demand a meeting tomorrow.

Vladimir Putin: So to be in agreement, as soon as we hang up, I will study these proposals. But from the beginning, it was necessary to put pressure on the Ukrainians, but no one wanted to do it.

Emmanuel Macron: But yes, I do my best to push them, you know it well.

Vladimir Putin: I know but unfortunately it is not effective.

Emmanuel Macron: I need you to help me a little. The situation on the contact line is very tense. I really called Zelensky yesterday to calm down. I will tell him again, calm everyone down, calm down in social networks, calm down the Armed Forces of Ukraine. But what I also see is that you can really call to calm down your pre-positioned armed forces. There was a lot of shelling yesterday. If we want to give dialogue a chance, we have to calm things down in the region. How do you see the evolution of military exercises?

Vladimir Putin: Exercises are proceeding according to plan.

Emmanuel Macron: So they end tonight, right?

Vladimir Putin: Yes, probably tonight, and we will definitely leave a military presence on the border until the situation in Donbass calms down. The discussion will be taken in consultation with the Ministries of Defense and Foreign Affairs.

Emmanuel Macron: OK. Vladimir, I tell you very sincerely, for me, putting the discussions back in the right framework and avoiding tensions is an absolute prerequisite. And what matters to me – and I’m really asking you – is that we have the situation under control. That is the first pillar. And I’m counting on you a lot. Do not give in to provocations of any kind in the hours and days to come.

I wanted to make two very concrete proposals to you. The first, organise a meeting in the next few days in Geneva between you and President Biden. I spoke to him Friday evening, I asked him if I could make you this proposal. He told me to tell you he was ready for it. President Biden also reflected on ways to credibly de-escalate the situation, take your demands into account and very clearly address the issue of NATO and Ukraine. Tell me the date that suits you.

Vladimir Putin: Thank you very much Emanuel. It is always a great pleasure and a great honour to speak with your European counterparts as well as with the United States. And I always have a lot of fun talking to you because we are in a relationship of trust. So, Emmanuel, I suggest you reverse things. First of all, you have to prepare this meeting beforehand. It is only afterwards that we will be able to talk because if we come like that, to talk about everything and nothing, we will still be blamed for it.

Emmanuel Macron: But can we say to ourselves today, at the end of these discussions, that we agree on the principle? I would like a clear answer from you on this. I understand your reluctance on a date, but are you ready to go ahead and say today ‘I would like a two-person meeting with the Americans, then extended to the Europeans’ or not?

Vladimir Putin: This is a proposal that deserves to be taken into account and if you want us to be well aligned on how to formulate it, I suggest that you ask our advisers to call each other to agree… but know that in principle, I agree.

Emmanuel Macron: Very well, you confirm to me that you agree on the principle. I suggest that our teams try to complete a joint text, a sort of press release at the end of this call.

Vladimir Putin: To be honest with you, I wanted to go play ice hockey because here I’m talking to you from the gym before starting physical exercises. I’ll call my advisors first.

Emmanuel Macron: Anyway, thank you Vladimir. We stay in touch in real time. As soon as there is something, you call me.

Vladimir Putin: Thank you Mr. President.

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