EMMANUEL Macron and Vladimir Putin had a huge argument over the phone just four days before Russia invaded Ukraine.
During the dramatic conversation, the highly-strung French President slammed his Russian counterpart after he suggested France negotiated with pro-Russian separatists.
"I don't even know where your lawyers learned the law," Macron said, according to the leaked telephone recording.
As Macron insisted Putin should meet with US President Joe Biden to pacify the discussion, a tense Putin rebutted the request and retorted he was "in the gym" about to play ice hockey.
The recording of the confidential call was published by French TV broadcaster France 2 as part of a documentary about Macron's handling of the Ukraine war.
During the tense exchange on February 20 – just days before Putin ordered his troops into Ukraine – Macron tries to understand the tyrant's "intentions" and asks what steps should be taken to avoid an all-out war.
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Putin, meanwhile, reminds Macron that the region's separatists have been keen to negotiate with Volodymyr Zelensky in a "constructive dialogue", who he accuses of refusing to engage in dialogue with.
Irritated, Macron replies: "I don't know what lawyer will be able to tell you that in a sovereign country, the texts of laws are proposed by separatist groups and not by the democratically elected authorities."
A snappy Putin replied: "This is not a democratically elected government. They came to power in a coup, there were people burned alive, it was a bloodbath and Zelensky is one of those responsible."
"Of course, we have a completely different reading of the situation."
Putin went on to insist that Macron should negotiate with the separatists, a suggestion to which Macron responded: "We don't give a damn about the separatists' proposals!".
Before the leaders hung up, Macron suggests issuing a press release stating that Putin and Biden would meet "in principle".
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Non-committal Putin retorts: "To be honest with you, I wanted to go play ice hockey because here I'm talking to you from the gym before starting physical exercises. I'll call my advisors first."
24 hours later, Russia passed a bill to recognise the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic and the Luhansk People's Republic in Eastern Ukraine as independent states.
On the morning of February 24, Putin launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine by land, air and sea.
In June, Zelensky looked far from thrilled as his French counterpart visited the war-torn country for the first time since the Russian invasion.
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Macron, who was previously accused by Kyiv for being too cautious in his support – visited with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi.
Russia's "special military operation" in Ukraine is the biggest attack by one state against another in Europe since WW2.
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