Sat. May 18th, 2024

President Emmanuel Macron has strongly criticized Russia’s rhetoric as “bizarre and threatening” after a rare conversation between the defence ministers of France and Russia, marking their initial contact since 2022. French Defence Minister Sebastien Lecornu initiated the dialogue on Wednesday with his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu, expressing France’s willingness to enhance exchanges to combat “terrorism,” as confirmed by the French defence ministry.

The phone discussion coincided with France’s intensive preparations to host the Olympic Games in Paris this summer. During the hour-long exchange, Russia cautioned France, expressing hope that French intelligence services were not involved in a recent assault on a concert hall in Moscow, claimed by extremists from the Islamic State group, according to statements from the Russian defence ministry.

Macron, addressing reporters, characterized the Russian comments as “bizarre and threatening,” rejecting any insinuations that France might have been linked to the deadly attack as “ridiculous.” He highlighted France’s engagement with Russia, citing “useful information” on the attack’s origin and organization, resulting in the loss of at least 144 lives.

“I asked the heads of the relevant ministries’ services to engage in technical discussions with their Russian counterparts to convey a message of solidarity and share useful information,” Macron stated, refraining from divulging specifics. He dismissed allegations implicating France or Ukraine in the attack as baseless manipulations of information, part of Russia’s tactics.

Observers perceived the phone talks as a shift in Macron’s stance, who has recently adopted a tougher approach towards Russia, including not ruling out the deployment of troops in Ukraine. Macron defended this stance, emphasizing collaboration with all parties affected by terrorism and the exchange of technical information based on available intelligence.

Following the dialogue between Lecornu and Shoigu, Moscow suggested that there was a “readiness for dialogue on Ukraine.” However, France swiftly refuted this claim, with a source close to Lecornu informing AFP that France neither proposed nor accepted any such discussions on the conflict.

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