SAINT-DENIS, April 4 –– President Emmanuel Macron today denounced as “bizarre and threatening” Russia’s tone following rare phone talks between the defence ministers of France and Russia, their first contact since 2022.

Yesterday, French Defence Minister Sebastien Lecornu reached out to his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu, saying France was ready to step up exchanges to battle “terrorism”, according to the French defence ministry.

The phone call took place as France is pulling out all the stops to host the Olympic Games in Paris this summer.

Russia for its part warned France during the one-hour talks it hoped that the French secret services had not been involved in a recent attack on a concert hall in Moscow claimed by Islamic State group extremists, according to a readout from the Russian defence ministry.

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“The comments by the Russian side were bizarre and threatening,” Macron told reporters, adding that any suggestions France might have been involved in the deadly attack were “ridiculous”.

Macron said France had been in contact with Russia as Paris had “useful information” to share on the origin and organisation of the attack that claimed the lives of at least 144 people.

“I asked the directors of the services at the appropriate ministries to have technical discussions with their (Russian) counterparts to express a message of solidarity and because we had useful information—I am not going to reveal it here—on the origin and organisation of this attack,” Macron said.

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“It’s ridiculous to say that France is behind it, that the Ukrainians are behind it. It makes no sense. It does not correspond to reality, it’s a manipulation of information which is part of Russia’s arsenal of war.”

The phone talks were seen by some observers as a change of tack for Macron, who has in recent months toughened his line against Russia, refusing to rule out putting troops on the ground in Ukraine.

Today, Macron sought to defend that approach.

“We will have joint work with all those affected by terrorism. And when we have information we have technical exchanges,” he said.

After the talks between Lecornu and Shoigu, Moscow also said that “readiness for dialogue on Ukraine was noted” during the phone call.

France immediately shot down that suggestion.

“France neither accepted nor proposed anything of the sort” on the conflict, a source close to Lecornu told AFP.—AFP