The call took place four days before the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

What Vladimir Putin did not know: Emmanuel Macron allowed French journalist Guy Lagache to record the entire conversation on his camera in his office in the Élysée.

Michael Wiegel

Political correspondent based in Paris.

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Shortly before the end of the French EU Council Presidency, the Élysée Palace released the recording.

On June 30, he will be broadcast by France 2 state television in a documentary about the Ukraine war.

The minutes of the conversation have already been published and contain important details for understanding the role played by the French President in the chronicle of the announced war.

Macron's adviser protests

Right at the beginning of the call, Macron addressed the “growing tensions” and asked Putin to assess the situation.

The Russian President, who received Macron on February 7 and Chancellor Olaf Scholz on February 15 in the Kremlin, replied coolly: “You can see for yourself what is happening.

You and Chancellor Scholz, you told me that President Zelenskyy is ready for a gesture of goodwill, that he has prepared a law to implement the Minsk Agreement.

(...) But our dear colleague Zelenskyj does nothing.

He's lying.

(...) I don't know if you heard his statement yesterday saying that Ukraine must have nuclear bombs.”

In the background, Macron's chief diplomatic adviser Emmanuel Bonne protested: "But no, what nonsense!" Putin continued undeterred: "I also heard your (Macron's) comments during the press conference in Kyiv on February 8.

You asked for a revision of the Minsk agreement so that – I quote you – it could be implemented.” In the office of the French President in the Élysée Palace, the voice of the adviser was heard again: “No, he didn't say that.” Macron replied : “Vladimir, I never said that a revision of the Minsk Agreement is necessary.

Neither in Berlin, nor in Kyiv, nor in Paris.

I said it has to be implemented.”

But Putin did not react to this, but defended the separatists.

"I don't understand your problem with the Separatists.

At least they did what we told them and started a constructive dialogue with the Ukrainian side," Putin said.

Macron lost patience.

"I don't know where your lawyer studied!

(...) I don't know which lawyer would go so far as to claim that legal texts in a sovereign country are drafted by separatists and not by a democratically elected government.”

Putin replied harshly and adamantly: “It is not a democratically elected government.

She came to power through a coup d'état, there were people who were burned alive, it was a bloodbath and Zelenskyj is one of those responsible.”

“What you are saying casts doubt on your will to respect the Minsk Agreement.

(…) If you claim that you are dealing with an illegitimate and terrorist government,” said Macron.

"Listen to me carefully," Putin replied, visibly upset.

"Do you hear me?

I repeat, the separatists, as you call them, responded to the Ukrainian side's proposals, but they didn't respond." Then Putin complained that pressure should have been put on the Ukrainians from the start, "but that's it didn't happen." Macron said: "But yes, I'll do my best to urge them, you know that!" To which Putin laconically replied: "But unfortunately that's not efficient."

"I need a little bit of your help," Macron said.

The situation at the contact line is very tense.

“Yesterday I asked Zelenskyj to be quiet.

I'll tell him that again, to shut everyone down, the social networks, the Ukrainian armed forces.

But you can also keep your deployed forces at rest.

There was a lot of bombing yesterday.

If we want to give dialogue a chance, then we need to calm the game down.

How do you see the military maneuvers?” asked the Frenchman.

"The maneuvers are going according to plan," Putin said.

"That means they're finished tonight," Macron asked.

"Yes, probably tonight," Putin replied evasively.

Macron made him an important proposal.

President Joe Biden is ready to meet Putin in Geneva "in the coming days".

“I spoke to him on the phone on Friday evening.

(...) He told me he was ready," said Macron.

"Thank you, Emmanuel.

(...) It is always a great pleasure to exchange ideas with you, because we have a relationship of trust," said Putin.

“So Emmanuel, I suggest you turn things around.

First of all, we have to prepare this meeting,” he said.

Macron did not give up and said he understood that Putin did not want to set a date for the talks with Biden.

But does he “in principle” agree?

"It's a proposal that deserves attention," Putin said.

"I propose that our advisers work out a joint text," Macron said.

To which Putin impatiently replied: "Not to hide anything from you, I want to play ice hockey now, I'll talk to you from my gymnasium, where I start training.

I'll call my advisor first."

There should be no joint communiqué, just like a meeting with Biden in Geneva.

Four days after the talks, Russian troops invaded Ukraine.

Macron has spoken to Putin 21 times since December 14, 2021.

So far, confidentiality has always been maintained.