Putin denies meddling in French election

French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday received his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Versailles Palace for the inauguration of an exhibition marking the 300 years of Franco-Russian relations.

Former presidents Barack Obama and François Hollande had backed down from the same threat at the time of the first major chemical attack in August 2013.

French President Emmanuel Macron (R) and Russian President Vladimir Putin walk to deliver a joint press conference following their meeting at the Versailles Palace, near Paris, on May 29, 2017.

In other comments, Macron also declared that Putin had promised "the whole truth" about an alleged crackdown on gay men in Chechnya.

Answering questions from journalists, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the issue of fighting terrorism will be the main focus of Putin and Macron's meeting.

WikiLeaks, which posted online hacked emails from Hillary Clinton's campaign during last year's USA presidential race, tweeted a link to the campaign documents. United States intelligence agencies have blamed that operation on the Russian Government. Asked about the allegations, Mr Putin assumed the look of the KGB interrogator he once was.

The secretary-general of Le Pen's far-right National Front party, Nicolas Bay, said later that "of course" Le Pen's contacts with Russian Federation continue and "there is no reason these contacts wouldn't continue long-term".

Putin flew to France to hold talks with Macron on Monday.

Macron, a strong supporter of equality, vowed in a joint press conference with Putin to be "constantly vigilant on these issues". "The issue has not been raised".

The French president also spoke about the persecutions of homosexuals in Chechnya.

"They didn't act like media, like journalists".

He took aim at the Russia Today broadcaster and Sputnik agency, calling them "organs of influence and propaganda". All media outlets, including Russian ones, have had access to my campaign.

"I am prepared to welcome anybody always", he said. "Elections are the decisions of sovereign people".

Macron, who in the past has been critical of Moscow, is hosting Putin at the Chateau de Versailles, just outside Paris. Russian Federation backs President Bashar Assad's embattled regime, while France supports the rebel factions seeking his removal from power.

The visit is seen as an opportunity to rebuild strained bilateral ties.

Obama said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would risk crossing a "red line" and provoking a USA military response by using or moving chemical or biological weapons. He threatened twice to retaliate by force for the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

Last month, US missiles targeted the Shayrat airfield in western Syria.

Putin said: "They wanted to do like in France, but a bit better".

Macron has told Putin that France would not tolerate any further chemical attack in Syria. The US Government subsequently worked with Russian Federation on a deal that was supposed to rid Syria of such weapons.

Mr Macron said he spoke to Mr Putin about LGBT rights in Chechnya and about the rights of embattled NGOs in Russian Federation, vowing he would be "constantly vigilant" on these issues.

Tensions have also risen over the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria, where France and Russian Federation back opposing sides.

Standing next to his Russian counterpart, France's new President also pledged to defend "all people, all minorities".

Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported in March that authorities in Muslim-majority Chechnya were imprisoning and torturing gay men.

In the interview, Macron compared his own handshake to his leadership posture.



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