A leaked telephone conversation between President Vladimir Putin and his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, revealed the two leaders exchanged heated words just four days before Russia invaded Ukraine.
What Happened: The confidential call was made public in a France 2 documentary titled “A President, Europe and War,” reported The New York Post.
Macron had called up Putin to discuss the escalating situation on Ukraine’s borders and discuss actions to simmer down the crisis.
Putin brought up Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and reportedly accused the latter of lying to Macron about his intention to implement the Minsk Accords — aimed at ending the war in the Donbas region.
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The Russian leader said Zelenskyy had refused to engage in negotiations with pro-Russia Ukrainian separatists.
That reportedly infuriated Macron, who told Putin, “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.”
Putin then questioned the legitimacy of Zelenskyy’s government and said, “They came to power in a bloody coup, with murders and arsons and people being burned alive.”
As the exchange got heated, Macron reportedly told Putin he did not “give a damn about the separatists’ proposals” as they were unlawful.
To Macron’s request to reduce border tensions, Putin said Russia will wrap up military exercises the same night but would leave a military presence at the border “until the situation in Donbas calms down.”
The call ended with Putin reportedly telling Macron he wanted to “go play ice hockey because here I’m talking to you from the gym before starting physical exercises.”
Why It Matters: Zelenskyy was elected in a landslide in the 2019 presidential election. The former comedian won 73.2% of the popular vote. There was a 62.1% voter turnout at the polls.
Putin has accused the United States and its allies of orchestrating the 2014 ouster of pro-Russia former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich in the past, reported Al Jazeera.
It was reported this week that Putin is consolidating his hold over the Donbas region. He wants his top generals to make a move on the Donetsk province after occupying the entirety of Luhansk.
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Photo via www.kremlin.ru on Wikimedia