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Macron Hosts Putin

Macron Hosts PutinMacron Hosts Putin

France's President Emmanuel Macron and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Monday held their first meeting since the French leader took office, with differences on Ukraine and Syria in full view.

Macron welcomed Putin to the splendor of the Versailles Palace outside Paris with a perfunctory handshake, after the 39-year-old made a point of outlasting US President Donald Trump when they clasped hands at the NATO summit last week, AFP reported.

Putin's visit is the latest test of Macron's diplomatic mettle after the G7 talks in Sicily last week and the NATO summit in Brussels where he turned the tables on Trump by refusing to release the American leader's hand for several seconds during the handshake for the cameras. "It is essential to talk to Russia because there are many international issues that will not be resolved without a tough exchange with the Russians," Macron said in Sicily.

Russia's powerful ambassador to France, Alexander Orlov, said he hoped the meeting could help turn the page on the fraught relationship between Putin and Macron's predecessor, Francois Hollande.

"Many things in the future will depend on the first meeting," Orlov told Europe 1 radio. As a candidate, Macron had tough words for Russia, accusing it of following a "hybrid strategy combining military intimidation and an information war".

Since the start of the war in Ukraine in 2014, Russia has flexed its muscles with a series of wargames involving tens of thousands of troops in areas bordering NATO Baltic states.

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