MUNICH — French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday called out Vladimir Putin for telling him last year that the paramilitary Wagner Group had nothing to do with Russia.
“A year ago I spoke to Putin and he assured me Russia had nothing to do with the Wagner Group,” he told an audience at the Munich Security Conference. “I accepted that,” he said.
The Wagner Group has since provided military services supporting Russia’s war effort. It means Moscow “formalized the fact that Wagner was an explicit, direct, diplomatic-military, neo-mafia medium of Russia around the world,” Macron said.
Macron’s speech comes as country leaders and security officials gathered for a three-day event in the Bavarian capital, a conference dominated by the West’s efforts to allign on how to support Kyiv in its conflict with Russia.
The French president said the time isn’t right for dialogue with Russia and called on Western states to “intensify” their backing of a Ukrainian counter-offensive. But he suggested that — when negotiations would end the war on terms acceptable to Kyiv — Europe and Russia should “create an imperfect balance” on the Continent.
“It’s time for a transition,” he said, suggesting Russia and its adversaries will need to agree on a new regional security architecture, calling it an “imperfect balance.”
But he emphasized the time isn’t right for negotiations, noting it’s “too early” to formulate such a Europe-Russia understanding.
The comments reflect Macron’s long-held view that security guarantees for Russia are an “essential” component of any peace talks. Moscow has to be satisfied with how the war ends, or else any deal would be no more than a ceasefire and not a treaty, he argues.
Laura Kayali contributed reporting.
CORRECTION: This article was updated to correctly reflect Macron compared the Wagner group to the mafia.