The French president speaks again on the phone with the Russian leader and concludes that his goal is to conquer all of Ukraine
The French president, Emmanuel Macron, has concluded this Thursday, after an hour and a half telephone conversation with Vladimir Putin, that “the worst is yet to come” in the war in Ukraine and that the objective of the Russian president is to take the entire country . Putin, according to the Elysee Palace, shows “very great determination” to continue with the invasion unless the Kiev government disarms and agrees to be a neutral country.
“Our analysis is that the Russian ambition is to take control of the whole of Ukraine,” said the Elysee source, who requested anonymity. “[Russian forces] will face difficulties and obstacles, the Ukrainians fight with courage. Nothing is decided, but the correlation of forces is very unbalanced, and, without making predictions, we must be prepared for the worst to happen”. Paris is not currently working with the scenario of a partition of Ukraine, which he would consider unacceptable anyway.
In a message on the social network Twitter, Macron defended: “It is absolutely necessary to maintain dialogue to avoid human dramas. I will continue with my efforts and contacts. It is necessary to avoid the worst.”
But massive European and US sanctions and arms shipments have not, so far, stopped Putin. What means does the West have to avoid the worst? According to the Elysee, the sanctions “are going to get tougher”, and there are economic and diplomatic means, but also “operational support” for Ukraine, to continue pressuring the Russian president.
The call was one of Macron’s last diplomatic acts before declaring himself a candidate in the April 10 and 24 presidential elections in a letter to the French published in regional newspapers. “I ask for your trust for a new term as President of the Republic,” Macron writes. “I am a candidate to invent with you, in the face of the challenges of the century, a unique French and European response”, he adds. There was no doubt that the current president would be eligible for re-election, but it remained to be made official. The deadline was this Friday at 6:00 p.m.
The war has almost extinguished the electoral campaign, has strengthened Macron in the polls and has left the candidates closest to Putin in a delicate position. In several polls, the ultra Éric Zemmour, declared an admirer of the Russian president, loses support.
Macron’s conversation with Putin was at the initiative of the Russian president. It was the 13th meeting between the two since December, including the six-hour meeting in Moscow on February 7, two weeks before the start of the Ukraine invasion. With the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, he has spoken 19 times in the same period, the last one on Thursday after the call with Putin.
The Russian president, according to the Elysee, explained to Macron that the “military operations” in Ukraine “are developing according to plan.” He reminded her of his motives for the invasion: Kiev’s alleged breach of the 2015 Minsk agreements on pro-Russian breakaway areas in eastern Ukraine. He reiterated that his goal is to “denazify” the Kiev government and blamed the West for mistreating Russia over the past 30 years.
Macron, according to the same source, replied that Putin “makes a serious mistake” in his assessment of the Ukrainian political regime. “Obviously, it’s not a Nazi regime,” he told her, and accused her of lying and lying to himself if he believed these arguments. “You, deep down, tell stories to yourself, you look for a pretext and what you say does not correspond to reality and in no way justifies the violence you commit today or the price your country is going to pay for it because it will end as an isolated country, weakened and under sanctions for a very long period.”
Putin returned to the fray, reiterating that the invasion of Ukraine was an operation to combat Nazism, and threatened: “Yes, the situation is going to get worse, but it is the fault of the Ukrainians because they do not accept my conditions.”
The Russian declared that “Russia intends to continue without compromise its fight against nationalist groups that commit war crimes,” according to a Kremlin statement quoted by Agence France Presse.
It was a tense dialogue in the background, without any possible meeting point, but not in the form, according to the Elysee. Putin expresses himself in a “very neutral, very clinical” way, and strong words do not prevent the conversation from dragging on. Both, who communicate through interpreters, are on a first-name basis.
Macron, in an address to the nation on Wednesday, defended his choice to talk to Putin until the very last moment before the invasion – even though he was misled about his plans – and also to continue talking now as Russian troops try to advance and in full bombardment of Ukrainian cities.
I have decided to stay in touch and I will keep in touch with President Putin as long as I can and as long as it is necessary,” Macron said. “To try tirelessly to convince him to lay down his arms, to help in the framework of the ongoing talks [between Ukraine and Russia] to the extent that France can do so and to prevent contagion and widening of the conflict both as we can”.
Marc Bassets / El Pais