It is a fragment of history which, perhaps, could have changed the course of events. Emmanuel Macron, who went a few days earlier to Moscow and kyiv, is in the process of mediation to prevent war in Ukraine. This Sunday, February 20, he exchanges again with Vladimir Putin, the master of the Kremlin, in order to identify his intentions, to lower – a little – the pressure. The phone call lasts nine minutes and was captured by the team of the documentary “A President, Europe and War” – signed Guy Lagache and whose broadcast is scheduled for Thursday June 30 on France 2 – which tells the diplomatic backstage of the last six months at the Elysée.
At the beginning of the sequence seen by AFP, the camera stops on the diplomatic adviser to the president, Emmanuel Bonn. He is surrounded by three collaborators in his office at 2, rue de l’Elysée. The four members of the Elysée’s diplomatic cell follow Emmanuel Macron’s meeting with the Russian president from a distance. The first begins bluntly: “I would like you to first give me your reading of the situation and perhaps quite directly, as we both do, tell me what your intentions are”. “What could I say? You see yourself what is happening,” retorts Vladimir Putin, referring to the Minsk agreements supposed to bring peace to eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian separatists are at the forefront. maneuver since the annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014. He accuses in passing Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president, of having said he wanted to acquire nuclear weapons. “No, anything”, comments Emmanuel Bonne.
“In fact our dear colleague, Mr. Zelensky, does nothing (to apply the agreements). He is lying to you,” added the Russian president, according to the translation of the documentary. During the exchange, Putin does not let go, sometimes gets annoyed. Behind a few Russian expressions of politeness, irony, even cynicism, is never far away. Macron is just as firm, offensive. A bit peremptory, even brittle.
The master of the Kremlin launches into a demonstration on the Minsk agreements and the role of the separatists. Emmanuel Macron protests: “I don’t know where your lawyer learned the law. I just look at the texts and I try to apply them!”. “We don’t care about the proposals of the separatists,” he says again after a new charge from his interlocutor.
The two men evoke Volodymyr Zelensky, “the situation on the line of contact” which “is very tense”, the Russian forces positioned on the Ukrainian border. Macron invites Putin not to give in to “provocations”. And finally comes to the purpose of his appeal: to convince the Russian president to accept a meeting with Joe Biden in Geneva. Poutine is not packed. “To be honest with you, I wanted to go play ice hockey (…). There, I’m talking to you from the gym”, he told her, before agreeing by giving an “agreement in principle”.
But this summit, announced in the process by the Elysée, will never take place. Four days later, on February 24, Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine. “We stay in touch in real time. As soon as there is something, you call me”, had however slipped Emmanuel Macron at the end of the telephone exchange. “Thank you, Mr. President,” replied Vladimir Putin, in French in the text. The observation is bitter: “We did not convince him”, loose Macron, a few days later, in front of the camera.