Putin, Macron talk Syria, LGBT rights at their first face-to-face meet

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

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, is welcomed by French President Emmanuel Macron at the Palace of Versailles, near Paris, France, Monday, May 29, 2017.

Macron took a swipe at Russian media outlets Russia Today and Sputnik, calling them "organs of influence and propaganda". "Russia Today and Sputnik ... behaved as organs of influence, of propaganda, of lying propaganda".

With Putin alongside him, the 39-year-old Macron repeated the accusation in a reply to a journalist's question, saying: "During the campaign, Russia Today and Sputnik were agents of influence which on several occasions spread fake news about me personally and my campaign". On the eve of the vote, Macron's campaign suffered a massive cyberattack that it compared with the hacking of candidate Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign past year. U.S. intelligence agencies have blamed that operation on the Russian Government.

Vladimir Putin first became involved with the government in 1975 when he joined the USSR's Committee for State Security (KGB).

The leaders' first handshakes - relatively brief and cordial - after Mr Putin climbed out of his limousine at Versailles were far less macho than Mr Macron's now famous who-will-blink-first handshake showdown with US President Donald Trump when the two leaders met for the first time last week.

"According to our information, there is no proof that chemical weapons were used by Assad".

Putin has backed Syrian President Bashar Assad, who has been accused of using chemical weapons, including in April.

Merkel's statements provoked from Richard Haass, the president of the influential US Council on Foreign Relations, the dismayed comment that the events of the past week represented a "watershed" that "the US has sought to avoid" since World War II.

On Monday, he said Putin shared the same hope, adding that the talks should take place "in days or weeks".

In Versailles, Macron and Putin will inaugurate an exhibition marking 300 years of Franco-Russian ties since the visit of Russia's modernising tsar Peter the Great to France in 1717.

Putin said it would have been odd not to hold a meeting with a candidate who had expressed warming relations with Russian Federation.

"Donald Trump, the Turkish president or the Russian president see relationships in terms of a balance of power".

Since being elected, Macron appears to have toned down the rhetoric, although he noted the two leaders still had "diverging positions" in their first phone call.

The United State and France have both opposed Assad in Syria, while Russian Federation has continued backing him in the civil war that has resulted in over half a million deaths, and sparked a refugee crisis in the region and parts of Europe. In the Le Figaro interview, Putin said the accusations of meddling leveled at Russian Federation have destabilized worldwide affairs.

Responding to a question about sanctions against Russian Federation over Ukraine, Putin answered, "These sanctions do not contribute at all to settling the crisis in Ukraine". "Let's fight for all the restrictions in the global economy to be scrapped".

Human rights activists protested Monday in Paris over the situation of gays in the Russian republic of Chechnya, holding a banner "Stop homophobia in Chechnya" near the Eiffel Tower.

Putin said after talks with Macron at the Palace of Versailles on Monday that the French leader proposed exchanging official delegations to work toward that goal.


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