“Your country will pay dearly because it will end up as an isolated, weak and sanctioned country for too long,” Macron told Putin, adding that Macron “called on Vladimir Putin not to lie himself.”
The conversation, which the French presidency said was initiated by Putin, came at a time when Ukrainian officials were due to hold talks with a Russian delegation, according to Russian and Ukrainian officials. But based on the two leaders’ exchanges, there was no indication on Thursday that a diplomatic solution could be in sight, according to French officials.
The Kremlin news service quoted Putin as telling Macron that the goals of the “special military operation” – the term the Kremlin used to refer to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – “would be achieved anyway”.
According to the statement, Putin told Macron: “Attempts to gain time by delaying negotiations will only lead to additional requirements for Kiev in our negotiating position.”
A senior French official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because it is a practice of the French government, said Putin’s comments reflected “a determination to continue the military operation and to carry it to the end”.
According to the Kremlin news service, Putin also objected to a speech to the nation by Macron on Wednesday, in which he condemned Putin’s “brutal attack” on Ukraine and said “Putin chose war.”
In his speech, Macron also said that Putin’s claims that he wants to “discredit” Ukraine are a “lie” and “an insult to the history of Russia and Ukraine, to the memory of our elders who fought side by side against Nazism.”
Responding directly to the comments on Thursday, the Kremlin news service said Putin did not agree with “many points” raised in Macron’s speech, and denied Russia was behind the bombings of major Ukrainian cities – despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
Macron is the only Western leader who has been in constant public contact with Putin since the invasion of Ukraine, in an effort described by the French presidency as an attempt to keep the doors open for meaningful negotiations. Putin and Macron also spoke on Monday and Thursday.
Before the invasion, Macron led Western efforts to prevent the crisis from escalating through diplomatic channels, traveling to Moscow last month to keep Putin in touch. Since mid-December, the two leaders have spoken more than a dozen times, according to the French presidency. Macron also had frequent contacts with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky – last on Thursday, after his call with Putin.
Robin Dixon in Moscow and Claire Parker in Washington contributed to this report.
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