A nine-minute phone call with Vladimir Putin. The French government has published the minutes of a conversation between President Emmanuel Macron. The descriptions provide insights into the hidden world of telephone diplomacy – and the Russian President’s twisted world view.

It was one of the last attempts to keep the peace in Europe. On February 20, French President Emmanuel Macron spoke to Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin, once again. But the Frenchman’s phone call fell on deaf ears, once again. This shows a transcript of the conversation that the Élysee Palace has now released for a documentary on French television.

The recordings show Macron’s struggle for de-escalation and peace – and how it wipes Putin off the table, stalls his interlocutor and accuses Ukraine. Both presidents are annoyed. Finally, Putin has to hang up in a hurry, his ice hockey training is about to start.

Exchange of blows between Emmanuel Macron and Vladimir Putin

“Tensions have increased since we last spoke, and you know my commitment and determination to continue the dialogue,” Macon said. “I want you to first tell me how you feel about the situation, and perhaps in a fairly direct way, like we both do, let me know your intentions.” As a result, Putin immediately attacked the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyj, who was lying, did not want to implement the Minsk Agreement and was even striving for nuclear weapons. Macron rejects Putin’s objection that he wants to revise the agreement. “I said you have to implement it.”

The wrangling then continues over the role of the Separatists. “Listen, Emmanuel, I don’t understand your problem with the separatists. At least, at our insistence, they did everything necessary to open a constructive dialogue with the Ukrainian authorities,” said Putin. “It’s not the separatists who will make proposals on Ukrainian laws,” countered Macron. “I don’t know where your lawyer studied,” he adds. “And I don’t know what lawyer can tell you that in a sovereign country, the texts of the law are proposed by separatist groups and not by the democratically elected authorities.”

Four days after the call, Russia invaded Ukraine

When Putin continues to insist on the efforts of the separatists, Macron is indignant. “Like I told you, we don’t care what the Separatists propose.” Rather, they would have to react to the Ukrainians. “Now listen to me carefully, do you hear me?” Putin now addresses the French President and insists that the ball is in Ukraine’s hands and that pressure must be put on Ukraine. “But I did my utmost to move them, you know that well,” replies Macron. “I know that, but unfortunately it didn’t do anything,” says the Kremlin chief. Macron said he would remind Selenskyj to calm down again.

“Don’t get involved in any kind of provocation in the next few hours and days,” Macron continues. And then the French President invites the head of the Kremlin to a short-term top-level meeting with US President Joe Biden – the actual goal of the call. Putin reacts politely. “Thank you Emmanuel. It is always a great pleasure and an honor to speak to your European counterparts as well as to the United States.” Involving the Americans is a good idea, but such a meeting must first be prepared. “So you know, in principle I agree.” To date, no such meeting has taken place.

That there are more important things than the French president and the exchange about war and peace is made clear by Putin and Macron. “Not to hide anything from you, I wanted to go play hockey now and I’ll speak to you from the gym before training starts. I’ll call my advisers first.” Macron thanks Putin. “We stay in direct contact. As soon as there is something, you call me.”

Four days later, Russian troops invade Ukraine. Peace in Europe is passé.

The transcript of the call in French can be found here.