Vladimir Putin told Emmanuel Macron on Sunday that he would achieve “his goals” in Ukraine “through negotiations or through war”, but denied attacking civilians and assured he would not attack nuclear power plants, the French presidency said.
The issue of nuclear power plants at the heart of the discussions
During a 1.45am telephone interview, the French president reiterated his “serious concerns” about the safety of nuclear sites following the March 4 bombing of the Ukrainian nuclear power plant in Zaporozhye, the largest in Europe. He urged “the need for concrete measures to be taken to respond to it,” the Elysée said in a press release. Vladimir Putin, for his part, assured that “his intention was not to carry out attacks on nuclear power plants” and said that he was “ready to respect IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) standards for the protection of power plants”, the French Presidency told reporters.
The Russian president agreed to “start a dialogue between the IAEA, Ukraine and Russia so that the plants are secured,” Paris said. On Monday, at a meeting of the IAEA Board of Governors, the director is expected to make proposals for the security of Ukrainian power plants. Vladimir Putin also again denied “that his army is targeting civilians”, while the French president asked him not to endanger them, in accordance with international law. And he reaffirmed that “the responsibility lies with the Ukrainians to let go of the population of the surrounded cities”.
“The attacking army is the Russian army,” replied Emmanuel Macron, again asking his Russian counterpart to cease its military operations. He also said he had “no reason to believe that the Ukrainian armies are endangering civilians”.
Putin ‘very determined to achieve his goals’
Emmanuel Macron said the Russian president was “very determined to achieve his goals”, including “what he calls the ‘denazification’ and neutralization of Ukraine”, as well as recognizing the independence of Crimea and Donbass. Demands that Paris says are “unacceptable for Ukrainians”. “It is not impossible that we will soon introduce new sanctions,” the Elysee announced, without specifying whether they could go so far as to restrict imports of Russian gas and oil on which several European countries depend.
In any case, the EU plans to use its strategic reserves “to avoid an even more impressive price hike,” Paris said. But “we are not afraid of our supplies today”, assures the Elysée. “The goal remains not to wage war against Russia, but to change Vladimir Putin’s calculations,” Emmanuel Macron’s advisers reiterated. On the ground, “the longer the conflict lasts, the greater the risk of seeing forms of brutal war,” they worry.
“The chemical risk has not been proven,” said an adviser who was questioned on the subject, “but we have seen how Russia has been able to behave in Chechnya or Syria or, through militias, in the Central African Republic or in Mali”. “This does not prejudge what Russia will do in Ukraine, but it requires that a way be found to stop the fighting as soon as possible.” The advisers clarified that they saw images of civilians bombed, “who may fall into the category of war crimes”, referring to the International Criminal Court that has opened an investigation into the situation in Ukraine. “We know that Kharkiv is under heavy siege and heavy shelling, as well as Mariupol, and that Kiev is about to be surrounded,” the Elysée added.