Russian defence ministry says talks with French minister show readiness for Ukraine dialogue

(Reuters) – Russia’s defence ministry said on Wednesday talks between the Russian and French defence ministers showed “readiness for dialogue on Ukraine.”

Russia said the French side had requested the call. A spokesperson for France’s defence ministry said it was the first call between the two ministers since October 2022 – eight months after the Kremlin ordered the invasion of Ukraine.

“Readiness for a dialogue on Ukraine was noted,” the Russian Defence Ministry said in its account of the call between Sergei Shoigu and French Armed Forces Minister Sebastien Lecornu. It said a starting point for discussions could be the 2022 talks between the two sides in Turkey which ended without results.

The Russian statement also said any notion of holding a meeting in Switzerland on achieving peace in Ukraine was “pointless” if Russia was not a participant. Kyiv has proposed a “world summit”, but has said Russia would not be invited.

The statement said Shoigu noted any “practical implementation” of French President Emmanuel Macron’s suggestion last month of sending troops to Ukraine would “create problems for France.”

French officials have since clarified that the suggestion concerned using troops for training and other operations away from front lines.

Shoigu, according to the ministry statement, repeated Moscow’s contention that Russia believed there was a Ukrainian link to the mass shooting last month at a concert hall outside Moscow.

Islamic State claimed responsibility or the attack, Ukraine denies any link and Western nations have dismissed any such connection to Kyiv.

Lecornu’s office, in its account of the conversation, said the French minister had reaffirmed that France condemned Russia’s “war of aggression” in Ukraine.

Lecornu also expressed France’s solidarity with the victims of the concert hall attack, which killed at least 144 people.

(Reporting by Ron Popeski; Editing by David Gregorio)

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