On Friday, Emmanuel Macron accused Russia of being "a power destabilising Africa", in an interview with franceinfo/RFI/France 24 on the fringes of the Paris summit, with the Kremlin assuring that it was developing "constructive relations" with Russia.
"It is a power destabilising Africa through private militias that come to predate and commit acts of violence against civilian populations", said the French President, pointing out that "this has been documented by the United Nations in the Central African Republic through the Wagner militia".
In his view, "Russia has of its own volition put itself in a situation where it no longer respects international law, where it has once again become one of the few colonial powers of the 21st century, by waging a war of empire against its neighbour, Ukraine".
The Kremlin was quick to dismiss these accusations, assuring that it was developing "constructive relations" in Africa with the continent's countries.
"Russia is developing (with African countries) friendly, constructive relations based on mutual respect", Russian presidential spokesman Dmitri Peskov told reporters.
These relations "are not and cannot be directed against third countries", he also stressed.
Since the start of its invasion of Ukraine, Russia has sought to strengthen its economic and diplomatic ties with Africa, competing in some countries with France, a former colonial power on the continent.
At the end of July, Russia will be organizing a second Russia-Africa summit in St Petersburg (north-west), a way of demonstrating its understanding with its African partners despite the conflict in Ukraine.
A delegation of African heads of state also visited Russia last weekend, advocating an end to the war to Vladimir Putin and putting forward proposals that the Kremlin considers "very difficult to implement".
In Africa, Russia is trying to attract African leaders to its camp by claiming to be a bulwark against imperialism and accusing the West of using sanctions to block exports of Russian cereals and fertilisers, which are essential to many countries.
Speaking on France Info/RFI/France 24 on Friday, Emmanuel Macron did not rule out the possibility of holding talks with Vladimir Putin if the opportunity arose and the conditions were right.
If the Russian president calls him tomorrow? "Of course, I'll pick up the phone", Mr. Macron said. "If he calls me to propose something, I'll take it, because France has always been a facilitating and mediating power". But, he qualified, "the resumption of dialogue is only possible if there is respect for international law, which is the only one that allows us to live in peace".
He also reiterated that he himself had "no reason to call Vladimir Putin today", during the Ukrainian counter-offensive. "The time will come, I hope, for negotiations on Ukraine's terms".