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French defence minister Lecornu holds rare phone talks with Russia’s Shoigu

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The defence ministers of France and Russia on Wednesday held rare phone talks, their first such contact since October 2022, discussing the attack in Moscow claimed by Islamic State and Russia’s war against Ukraine, Paris said.

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French Defence Minister Sebastien Lecornu told Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu that France had always been ready to face down “terrorism” and was prepared for “increased exchanges with the aim of fighting this threat as effectively as possible,” a French defence ministry statement said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has acknowledged that “radical Islamists” conducted the bloody assault on the concert venue in Moscow that left at least 144 people dead, but suggested they were linked to Ukraine.

Lecornu said that France had no information to establish a link to Ukraine, calling on Moscow “to stop all instrumentalisation” of the attack, the defence ministry said.

“The minister also unreservedly condemned the war of aggression that Russia has launched in Ukraine,” the statement said.

“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 statement added.

French President Emmanuel Macron said in March Paris had offered Russian security services “increased cooperation” — adding that there would be contact on a “technical and ministerial level” rather than direct talks with Putin.

The French leader tried in a series of phone calls in 2022 to warn Putin against invading Ukraine and travelled to Moscow early that year.

He kept up phone contact with Putin even after the invasion began but talks have now ceased, with the last phone call between the presidents dating back to September 2022.

Macron has in the last months further toughened his line against Russia, refusing to rule out putting troops on the ground in Ukraine.

Lecornu and Shoigu last held phone talks in October 2022.

(AFP)

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