Rarely Occurring Conversation: Russian Defense Minister Advises French Counterpart Against Ukraine Troop Deployment

In rare call, Russian defense minister warns French counterpart against sending troops to Ukraine

Russia’s defense minister issued a stern warning to his French counterpart during an uncommon phone conversation on Wednesday, cautioning against the deployment of troops to Ukraine. Sergei Shoigu conveyed to French Defense Minister Sébastien Lecornu that should Paris proceed with its contemplation of dispatching a French military contingent to Ukraine, it could result in complications for France itself, as per a statement from the Russian Defense Ministry. Details regarding these potential issues were not provided.

The discussion arose in the wake of French President Emmanuel Macron’s remarks in February, where he acknowledged that the prospect of Western troops entering Ukraine remained plausible.

This dialogue marked the initial contact between Russian and French defense ministers since October 2022.

Shoigu emphasized Moscow’s willingness to engage in discussions concerning Ukraine, underscoring that any forthcoming peace talks in Geneva would lack significance without Russia’s participation. He also mentioned the potential for future negotiations to build upon a preliminary document explored during Russia-Ukraine discussions in Istanbul in March 2022.

Rarely Occurring Conversation: Russian Defense Minister Advises French Counterpart Against Ukraine Troop Deployment
Rarely Occurring Conversation: Russian Defense Minister Advises French Counterpart Against Ukraine Troop Deployment (Credits: The Guardian)

Reports circulating in the media have indicated that the draft proposal negotiated in Istanbul, occurring weeks after Moscow deployed troops into Ukraine, proposed Ukraine’s abandonment of its NATO aspirations in favor of neutrality. However, the negotiations collapsed swiftly without a finalized agreement.

The Russian Defense Ministry’s statement on Wednesday’s call also mentioned Lecornu extending condolences for the March 22 attack on a suburban Moscow concert hall, which resulted in 145 fatalities, marking the deadliest assault on Russian territory in decades.

Despite vehement denials from Kyiv and a claim of responsibility issued by an affiliate of the Islamic State group, as well as a prior warning from the U.S. to Moscow about an imminent attack, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his officials have sought to implicate Ukraine and Western powers in the assault.

The Russian Defense Ministry further indicated that during the call, Lecornu attempted to persuade Shoigu that Ukraine and its Western allies bore no responsibility for the concert hall attack. Nevertheless, Shoigu asserted that Moscow possessed “information about Ukrainian involvement in orchestrating the terror attack.”

The ministry quoted Shoigu as expressing suspicions that “The Kyiv regime does nothing without the approval of its Western handlers,” adding a hope that “the French special services weren’t involved in it.”