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Politics Monitor

French and Russian defense ministers spoke on the phone

French Minister of the Armed Forces Sébastien Lecornu spoke by telephone on Wednesday with his Russian counterpart Sergei Choïgu, a first since October 2022, after the recent attack in Moscow claimed by the Islamic State organization, announced the French Ministry of the Armed Forces.

Sébastien Lecornu “recalled France’s availability” for “increased exchanges” with Moscow in the fight against “terrorism”, according to a press release, which underlines that the French minister also “unreservedly condemned the war of aggression that Russia launched in Ukraine.

“Stop all exploitation”
This one-hour conversation was held at the initiative of Paris, which recalled that France “did not have any information allowing a link between this attack and Ukraine” to be established” and asked Russia to “stop all exploitation”.

On March 22, armed men entered a concert hall before opening fire on the crowd and setting the building on fire. At least 144 people died and 360 were injured in this attack claimed by IS.

The Kremlin admitted that “radical Islamists” had been behind the attack, while denouncing a Ukrainian lead. Twelve suspects were arrested, including the four alleged attackers, from Tajikistan. The branch of IS suspected of being behind the attack on Moscow “had carried out several attempts in recent months” on French “soil”, Emmanuel Macron declared shortly after.

Towards increased cooperation?
“We have offered the Russian services, as well as our partners in the region, increased cooperation,” the French president said. The United States, for its part, indicated that it had warned Moscow that an attack was being prepared.

The meeting between the two ministers is in itself important, as high-level meetings are rare between the pro-Ukraine Western camp and Russia. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Secretary of State Antony Blinken last spoke on the phone in April 2023, with Sergei Shoigu having spoken with his American counterpart Lloyd Austin the previous month. Russia regularly sends Sergei Lavrov to G20 meetings, including in February this year, but there is no indication that he has spoken directly with Western officials.

This article is originally published on leprogres.fr

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