French president flexes muscles in Putin talks


After Moscow lost its bets in the French vote, the visit offers the Russian leader a chance to turn the page and try to establish ties with Macron as the Kremlin has struggled to mend a bitter rift in relations with the West.

It was part of what he called a "frank exchange " with President Vladimir Putin when he welcomed him to Versailles. France was one the main proponents of sanctions that have significantly damaged trade between the European Union and Russian Federation. The Russian president did not respond directly to Macron's implicit challenge. While Washington has repeatedly risked an all-out military clash with Russian Federation, a major nuclear power, in both Ukraine and Syria, Macron said that his goal was to "reinforce our partnership with Russian Federation".

The two leaders agreed on the need of a new round of talks on the violence in eastern Ukraine. Macron wanted to bring about a "Normandy format" of talks, which would include French, Russian, Ukrainian and German leaders.

Putin's military supports Syrian president Bashar el-Assad.

He said the global community should "establish a joint policy" to address the use of chemical weapons by "anyone, any force. and make a response that would render the use of chemical weapons simply impossible".

Also in the press conference, Mr Macron said the use of chemical weapons in Syria is a red line for France, and would result in reprisals.

He vowed to be "constantly vigilant on these issues".

"We are convinced he did not do so", Putin told Figaro Live, a day after meeting with Macron in Versailles. "I will give no ground at all to that".

Putin declared that the sanctions were "in no way" helping to end the fighting between government forces and Kremlin-backed rebels in Ukraine's east.

He said that sanctions "contribute in no way to solve this crisis" and called for "an end to all limitations of global [trade] exchanges".

In Versailles, he and Macron inaugurated an exhibition marking the visit of Russia's modernising tsar Peter the Great to France in 1717.

Ahead of Putin's visit, the 39-year-old centrist told a French weekly that he was not "bothered" by leaders who "think in terms of power dynamics".

While Macron is certainly not a flawless progressive politician, we should be relieved that it was him in that chair and not Le Pen, who would only further embolden Trump and the far-right around the globe.

It's the first time the two leaders have met face to face.

Following their first face-to-face meeting in Versailles, the French President's full-on blast at the state news agency Sputnik and broadcaster Russia Today came at a news conference with the Russian President standing at his side.

Amid the Congressional and FBI investigation into Russia's alleged meddling in the USA presidential vote, Macron's aides claimed in February that Russian groups were interfering with his campaign. Under Putin, a former KGB officer with a strongman image, Russian Federation had supported far-right leader Marine Le Pen in France's presidential election this year. Trump had already gained notoriety for his handshake, a vigorous tug that has caught some world leaders off guard. But they had a courteous sparring match about the campaign events.

The claims of Russian interference were driven by the "desire of those who lost the USA elections to improve their standing", Putin said in the interview recorded during his Monday visit to France.

Leading up to the election, Putin had expressly backed Macron's opponent, Marine Le Pen, leader of the staunchly anti-immigrant National Front.

He also said that his meeting with Le Pen "doesn't mean we tried to influence the French election".

Later Monday, Putin is to visit newly built Russian Orthodox Spiritual and Cultural Center near the Seine River that includes the Holy Trinity Cathedral.

One of its two lawmakers, Marion Marechal-Le Pen, a rising star, recently announced her departure from politics.