A secret phone call between Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron, which took place in February just days before Russia invaded Ukraine, leaked in late June.
According to France’s Le Temps news publication, the call took place on February 20, just four days before the Russian invasion of Ukraine began. The details of the call were revealed as part of a documentary by the France 2 new station, detailing Macron’s efforts to negotiate with Putin to prevent Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
On Wednesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov appeared to confirm the authenticity of the calls as he condemned the leaks to the press as a breach of “diplomatic etiquette.”
In the call, Putin drew anger from Macron after he suggested France should open up to negotiations with pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region. Macron responded to the proposal by saying, “I don’t know where your lawyer learned the law. I’m just looking at the texts and trying to apply them.”
“I don’t know what jurist 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,” Macron continued.
Putin then responded by saying, “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.”
Putin repeatedly said the pro-Russian separatists had upheld their end of the 2015 Minsk II agreement, which proposed an end to hostilities between the Ukrainian government and the separatists in exchange for some measure of autonomy for separatist-held areas. After Putin insisted the Ukrainian government had failed to respond to separatist proposals for how to implement the Minsk II agreement, Macron said, “We don’t give a damn about the separatists’ proposals.”
As the call continued, Macron called on Putin to agree to meet with the U.S., to which Putin dismissively replied that he would get around to it after a game of hockey.
During a visit to Vietnam on Wednesday, Lavrov defended Putin’s comments during the call.
“Essentially, we always hold talks in such a way so that we’ll have nothing to be ashamed of ever,” Lavrov said, according to Russia’s state-run TASS news agency. “We always say what we think and are ready to be held responsible for our words and clarify our position.”
Lavrov then added, “I think that diplomatic ethics, of course, does not provide for such a unilateral leak of a recording.”