Q. – What do you say to Mr Putin about the implementation or non-implementation of the Geneva accord, and the non-withdrawal from the buildings occupied by the Russians?
THE MINISTER – The Geneva decision which was made this week – and anything which moves towards de-escalation in Ukraine – is worthwhile. But at the same time, not all the issues were dealt with in the Geneva meeting, and in particular one which is essential for us: the 25 May election. Why? Mr Putin and the Russians are saying: “the Ukrainian government isn’t legitimate”. But if you think that, then it’s even more necessary to be in favour of an election on 25 May. We’re saying that this government is legitimate and we would like – given the intensity of the Ukraine crisis – this election to take place on 25 May. And so all the efforts of the international community – at least, of those who are sincere – must focus on this election, because we’ll have a president who will be legitimately elected. And I don’t want to see some people, through certain false attitudes, making it impossible for the election to be held on 25 May. (…)
Q. – Why aren’t you going to Russia to speak to Putin? Why aren’t the French or the Germans going to Putin’s office or to Finland or Stockholm to talk to him...?
THE MINISTER – I speak to my colleague, Mr Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, on the telephone just about every week. We aren’t going to wage war on Russia. France’s position is the following: we are – and we’ve demonstrated this – in favour of firmness on the principles and towards Russia. This is why we adopted sanctions and when there’s something to say, we say it even if others dislike it. But, at the same time, we’re in favour of dialogue, and so a solution must be found. And I speak to my colleague, Mr Lavrov – it’s my duty –, President Hollande talks to Mr Putin, we talk to the Germans, the Americans and the Europeans, and we try to move forward. And when something is unacceptable, we say so.
Q. – But what are you saying to them, because, precisely, today the pro-Russians are saying they’re not bound by what was actually said in Geneva; they remain in official buildings. There could be an incident at any time…
THE MINISTER – But this is why we said that if there wasn’t this de-escalation, which was initiated in Geneva in writing, there would be a new level of sanctions.
Q. – Economic sanctions this time, because for the moment the individual sanctions don’t seem to be bringing any results.
THE MINISTER – The new stage – if it is to be carried out – would be economic sanctions. (…)
Q. – So for France, there’s the 25 May election, the new president and perhaps his parliament negotiate a new constitution, and then this phase of decentralization.
THE MINISTER – Yes. And add strong economic support, because Ukraine is in grave difficulty. Those difficulties are accentuated by the fact that the Russians want to make Ukraine pay a high price for gas, and if the Europeans want to be consistent they must help Ukraine economically.
Q. – In concrete terms, how much? How?
THE MINISTER – Some measures have already been taken: €1 billion, as well as assistance through the International Monetary Fund. There may be other mechanisms. We’ve signed the political part of the association agreement and we’re going to support Ukraine. Moreover, it’s also in Russia’s interest, because no one country has as many economic interests in Ukraine as Russia. (…)
Q. – The other day, Michel Sapin told Europe 1 that the IMF and the European Union should or must give $27 billion in one go to Ukraine and €12 billion every year from the EU and from most of the EU countries. So it’s hard to imagine the French tightening their belts and paying for Ukraine’s civil servants or gas. That’s an observation you may not agree with.
THE MINISTER – Yes, but let’s not be alarmist, and at the same time let’s try and be coherent. If we want Ukraine’s integrity to be respected, if we don’t want it to be carved up, we must support it economically. Not just us – the Russians too and the other countries in the international community, beginning with the United States. That will obviously have a certain economic cost, but at the same time, isn’t it in our interest to have an independent country on our doorstep? Of course it is! (…)./.