Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with RusNano State Corporation CEO Sergey Kulikov in Moscow on June 15, 2022. (Photo by Mikhail METZEL / SPUTNIK / AFP)

Shortly before the start of the war, French President Emmanuel Macron called his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin about the Ukraine conflict, but even then an agreement seemed hopeless. This is now shown by a conversation log from the phone call published by France.

“Thank you, Emmanuel. (…) It is always a great pleasure to exchange ideas with you, because we have a relationship of trust,” Putin said during the conversation. The lack of results from the phone call shows that this is only strategic friendliness.

According to French media reports, after visits to Kyiv and Moscow, Macron tried to initiate telephone mediation on the evening of February 20 in order to ward off an escalation of the Ukraine conflict. He calls the Kremlin with four advisers, but Vladimir Putin rejects them.

He praised the efforts of Macron and Chancellor Olaf Scholz to implement the Minsk Agreement. “But our dear colleague Zelenskyj does nothing. He’s lying,” the “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung” quotes Putin from the published minutes of the conversation.

In the conversation, Putin referred to alleged calls for nuclear bombs by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and calls for Macron to revise the Minsk Agreement. He and his chief advisers reacted to both with angry protests.

But the Russian president is undeterred, ignoring Macron’s objections and defending the separatists in eastern Ukraine. Macron then briefly raises his voice. “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.”

Shortly afterwards, however, he tries to calm down again and asks Putin about de-escalation, which he had probably also asked the Ukrainian president to do beforehand. “If we want to give the dialogue a chance, then we have to calm the game down. How do you see the military maneuvers?” Macron asks diplomatically, according to the transcript of the conversation.

In response, Putin says the maneuvers are going according to plan and will “probably” be over by evening. At that time, Russian and Belarusian troops were already conducting military exercises on the Ukrainian-Belarusian border. Only four days later, the Russian invasion of Ukraine began.

As a first step towards an agreement, Macron Putin finally suggested a meeting with US President Joe Biden. “It is a proposal that deserves to be heeded,” was the Russian head of state’s evasive reply.

Shortly thereafter, Putin ended the call with the words “I want to play ice hockey now” and said goodbye in French. His advisors would take care of arranging a meeting with Biden. Such a meeting should not take place due to the escalation of the situation in Ukraine.

From the 21 phone calls between Macron and Putin since December, not a single word has been made public. The presidential palace has now approved the video by journalist Guy Lagache and published the specific text.

The full video will be released on June 30 by French TV channel France 2 as part of a documentary about Macron and the Ukraine war. “It was one of the most difficult subjects I’ve ever worked on in my life,” Lagache told French magazine 20 minutes.