Tense Exchanges Between Vladimir Putin and Emmanuel Macron on Yellow Vests

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French President Emmanuel Macron greets his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin at Fort Brégançon on 19 August 2019 near Bormes-les-Mimosas.

The Russian president was received by his French counterpart at Fort de Brégançon on Monday 19th August 2019. Despite some disagreements, they showed a desire for rapprochement.

Emmanuel Macron received Vladimir Putin Monday 19th August 2019 in the summer residence of the French presidents. The two men showed an apparent cordiality and a will of rapprochement between Moscow and the EU notably on Ukraine, in spite of proven disagreements on several subjects.

Read also: Emmanuel Macron receives Vladimir Putin before the G7 summit

Starting at 11.30pm local time (9.30pm GMT), the Russian president will have spent 4 and a half hours with Emmanuel Macron, including 2 and a half hours face-to-face interviews, followed by a dinner.

Bouquet of flowers

A bouquet of flowers in hand for Brigitte Macron, the Russian president arrived smiling at Fort Brégançon, on the Mediterranean coast, hosted by the French presidential couple.

After some kindness, the two men, sitting in garden chairs, exchanged before the press. Despite convergences and Emmanuel Macron’s clear desire to bring Russia and the EU together, they have been divided on topics such as the war in Syria or human rights.


In Idlib province, where the Syrian army is on the offensive with the help of the Russians, Emmanuel Macron has declared “imperious” the need to respect the cease-fire, which has been decided but is not applied. But the master of the Kremlin, unavoidable in Syria and Iran, swept the request, saying that Russia “supports the efforts of the Syrian army to eliminate terrorist threats to Idleb.”

Another divergence on the issue of the repression of demonstrations of opponents in Moscow, a topic on which Mr Putin responded with a spike saying he did not want a “situation such as that of yellow vests”, referring to a record of “Eleven people killed and 2500 wounded” during the wave of sometimes violent demonstrations that shook the French government a few months ago.

“Yellow vests have been free in the European elections”

According to the French authorities, only one death was recorded during the demonstrations of yellow vests: an 80 year old woman killed by a tear gas grenade while she was on her balcony. Ten other people were killed in roadblock accidents by protesters.

The parallel was refuted by Emmanuel Macron, “the comparison is not right. The yellow vests were free in the European elections (…) I wish that they express themselves freely (…) We are a country where people can express themselves freely, manifest freely “, he said, with reference to the demands of Russian protesters for transparent and free elections.

Despite these disagreements, the tone is clearly warming between the two countries, Emmanuel Macron wants to work for a strategic rapprochement between Europe and Russia to face a world in turmoil, and prevent Moscow from getting too close to China.

In regular telephone contact, the two men have already met several times in one-on-one meetings: Emmanuel Macron received Vladimir Putin in the splendour of Versailles in May 2017, just after his election, then went to his invitation in St. Petersburg last year. They also spoke at each G20, most recently in Osaka in June. Constant contact and relations less degraded than under the presidency of François Hollande.

French President Emmanuel Macron and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin during a walk at Fort Brégançon on 19 August 2019 near Bormes-les-Mimosas
French President Emmanuel Macron and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin during a walk at Fort Brégançon on 19 August 2019 near Bormes-les-Mimosas. (© Sputnik / AFP / Alexei Druzhinin)

“Russia is European”

“Russia is European, very deeply, and we believe in this Europe that goes from Lisbon to Vladivostok,” he said, adding that he wanted to “re-arm” Europe after “the misunderstandings of the last decades.”

“We have to reinvent an architecture of security and trust between the European Union and Russia,” he added, receiving the Russian president a few days before the summit of the G7 (ex-G8) Biarritz, instance of which Russia was excluded in 2014 after its annexation of Crimea.

“Cautious optimism”

The two men hinted at possible progress on the crisis in the pro-Russian provinces of Ukraine, which according to them, the arrival of the new Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Emmanuel Macron, paving the way for a future summit in “Normandy” format. , between Russia-Ukraine-France-Germany.

“The choices of President (Ukrainian Volodymyr) Zelensky are a real change for the situation,” said Emmanuel Macron.

“I will speak (with Emmanuel Macron) of my contacts with the new Ukrainian President. There are things that are worthy of discussion and that cause a cautious optimism, “said Putin, while Russia suffers European sanctions imposed because of the annexation of Crimea and its alleged involvement – that she denies – in the conflict of Donbass.

Vladimir Putin also praised “the very important role, see key” of Paris to allow the return in June of Russia to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron greet Russian President Vladimir Putin at Fort Brégançon on 19 August 2019 near Bormes-les-Mimosas.
Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron greet Russian President Vladimir Putin at Fort Brégançon on 19 August 2019 near Bormes-les-Mimosas. (© Sputnik / AFP / Alexei Druzhinin)

Emmanuel Macron in Moscow in 2020

A symbolic gesture, Emmanuel Macron also announced that he will travel to Moscow in May 2020 to attend the 75th anniversary celebrations of the victory over Nazi Germany.

“I am grateful” to Emmanuel Macron for accepting this invitation, Vladimir Putin replied. The Russians attach the utmost importance to these commemorations, which have been shunned by Westerners since the annexation of Crimea by Russia.

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