The film reveals Macron’s diplomatic offers amid the war in Ukraine

PARIS – “Vladimir …. tell me what your intentions are.”

Four days before President Putin ordered Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, French President Emmanuel Macron made a last-ditch effort to avert war in a crucial phone call revealed in a French television documentary.

In the rare public recording of a discussion between two world leaders, Macron tries to persuade the Russian president to “calm things down in the region.” But all of his proposals have ended in a dead end on Putin’s side.

The French documentary A President, Europe and the War offers a unique behind-the-scenes look at months of diplomatic wrangling amid Europe’s worst crisis in decades. It was intended to focus on Macron during France’s leadership of the EU’s rotating presidency, but ultimately captured historic moments in the war in Ukraine, including tracking Macron to Moscow and on two trips to Kyiv.

During the February 20 call with Putin, both leaders used the informal version of the word “you” to address each other in a very direct tone.


Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is “lying to you,” Putin tells Macron, accusing the authorities in Kyiv of seizing power through “a bloody coup.” People were burned alive, it was a bloodbath.” Zelenskyy was democratically elected in 2019; Putin appeared to be referring to his own interpretation of past events in Ukraine.

At some point, the French President raised his voice, slightly irritated: “I don’t know where your lawyer studied law,” he openly criticized Russian views.

Macron can also be heard urging a meeting between Putin and US President Joe Biden. Putin agrees in principle, but says he first needs his helpers to prepare the talks. The meeting never happens.

“It was like a really tough conversation between two people who were completely opposites,” said French journalist Guy Lagache, who shot and directed the film solo. He was embedded in the Elysées diplomatic service – exceptional access in a country where the President controls his public image and diplomatic assistants normally remain out of camera view.


Putin’s promise to meet with Biden turned out to be “a lie,” Lagache told The Associated Press. “But unless you try that (negotiate a meeting), you have no way of knowing if he’s going to lie.”

Lagache’s comments echo those of Macron’s top diplomatic adviser, Emmanuel Bonne, who warns in the documentary that Putin “always lies.”

The Russian President, who likes to publicize his sporting exploits, closes the discussion in his own way – by telling Macron he speaks “from the gym”.

“I wanted to play hockey,” he says.

Another phone call lets viewers feel Zelenskyy’s shock and horror and the urgency of the moment on the day the war began.

“The Russians, it’s terrible what they’re doing. … Now they are in Kyiv, we are fighting in Kyiv, Emmanuel,” Zelenskyj said to Macron. Macron is silent for several seconds.

“Yes, it is a total war,” confirms the Ukrainian leader.

As a diplomatic adviser, Bonne tried four times to call his Russian counterpart on his cell phone, to no avail. “They have the nerve to wage war, but not the courage to speak up,” he says, seemingly powerless.


Lagache said that there and while filming he “could feel the drama unfolding.”

“And you see that politics is also – and primarily – about people being (done) by people trying to find solutions in a very complex situation,” he added.

The documentary, released in France last week, features scenes rarely seen on television.

Macron can be seen holding a meeting in his bunker under the Elysee Palace and working with his team on the presidential plane, wearing a blue hoodie.

The film also details the work of diplomatic advisers, from preparing Macron’s speech to texting during his phone calls with world leaders.

In a surreal moment just before the war, Macron’s aides manage to salvage a potential €1 billion deal for French rail giant Alstom by sending the French President a last-minute handwritten note while he was meeting with Zelensky in Kyiv meets.

Lagache stated that he was careful not to reveal classified information. The documentary does not provide any concrete details about France’s military support to Ukraine.


Nor does it show the discussion between Macron and Zelenskyy after the French president made comments angering Ukrainians for not humiliating Russia.

The documentary highlights the coordination of European leaders to support Ukraine and impose unprecedented sanctions on Russia.

The camera follows Macron with Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi on the train en route to Kyiv in mid-June, where they pledged arms and backed Ukraine’s candidacy to join the European Union. The leaders visited nearby Irpin, a suburb where many civilians were killed, with Macron saying he saw signs of “war crimes”.

“What’s important to me is trying to be useful and making sure the conflict doesn’t spread, that Ukraine can stop it and take control again, and that Europeans stay united,” Macron said on the way back. “There is still a lot to be done. It’s not over.”


Jeffrey Schaeffer in Paris contributed.



Follow the AP’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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https://www.local10.com/news/world/2022/07/04/film-reveals-macrons-diplomatic-bids-amid-war-in-ukraine/ The film reveals Macron’s diplomatic offers amid the war in Ukraine

Sarah Y. Kim

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