Rare phone call between French, Russian defence ministers

France and Russia have had different takeaways from a phone call on Wednesday between French Defence Minister Sebastien Lecornu and his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu – a rare instance of high-level contact between the two countries, whose relationship has been strained by the war in Ukraine.

Russia said that Shoigu and Lecornu discussed the possibility of talks on the Ukraine conflict, which France immediately denied.

"Readiness for dialogue on Ukraine was noted. The starting points could be based on the Istanbul peace initiative," the Russian defence ministry said in a statement on the unexpected call, which Moscow said was initiated by France

Turkey said last month it was ready to again host a peace summit between Russia and Ukraine, but Kyiv has pushed back at the idea of negotiating directly with Moscow.

A source close to Lecornu quickly denied that France supported the plan.

"France neither accepted nor proposed anything of the sort", the source told the AFP news agency.

The French defence ministry acknowledged the pair discussed the war in Ukraine, but stressed that Lecornu reaffirmed France's support for Kyiv.

"France will continue to support Ukraine as long and as intensely as necessary in its fight for freedom and sovereignty, in order to bring peace and security to the European continent," the French ministry said in a statement.

Moscow attack

Russian President Vladimir Putin has acknowledged that "radical Islamists" conducted the attack, but suggested they were linked to Ukraine.

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