PARIS (BLOOMBERG) – French President Emmanuel Macron’s decision to reveal private telephone exchanges in a documentary about his failed efforts to convince President Vladimir Putin not to start a war in Ukraine has drawn a strongly-worded rebuke from Russia.
“We always conduct negotiations in such a way that we could never be ashamed of ourselves,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in a press conference in Vietnam on Wednesday (July 6).
“We always say what we think. But diplomatic practice does not allow for the unilateral leaking of such recordings.”
Earlier, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said “it’s hardly worth expecting the French side to respect anyone’s confidentiality”, during a talk show on state-run Channel One late on Sunday.
“Paris signalled to the whole world that it considers it normal to publish conversations between its leaders and partners.”
An entire discussion between Mr Macron and Mr Putin that took place on Feb 20, four days before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, was filmed by a France 2 television crew.
It aired in the documentary broadcast on Thursday, titled A President, Europe and the war.
During the exchange, Mr Putin agrees “in principle” to meet with US President Joe Biden in Geneva.
As Mr Macron grows irritated, Mr Putin becomes dismissive and says he’s at the gym and just wants to play ice hockey.
The meeting with Mr Biden never took place. Mr Macron’s diplomatic adviser is seen calling Mr Putin a “liar”.
The Elysee might have hoped the unprecedented access to the French President would temper criticism that he was too soft on Mr Putin, and cast his attempt to act as intermediary between Russia and the West in a more positive light.
Instead, it risks fuelling the perception that he was naive.
In one scene, on the train back from Kyiv last month, Mr Macron struggles to explain why he kept talking to his Russian counterpart.
“I thought that we could find a path with Putin via trust and reasoning,” he says.
It wasn’t the first time the Elysee was accused of leaking transcripts.
In 2020, Le Monde newspaper published exchanges between Mr Macron and Mr Putin about opposition leader Alexey Navalny.
Despite its protestations, Russia’s Foreign Ministry isn’t above disclosing confidential discussions.
France and Germany accused Moscow of flouting diplomatic protocol in November by publishing correspondence between Mr Lavrov and his French and German counterparts as the crisis over Ukraine intensified.