Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a Security Council meeting in in Moscow, Russia, Friday, May 26, 2017. (Alexei Druzhinin/Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
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France's new President Emmanuel Macron will hold delicate talks with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin Monday with the two countries harboring longstanding differences over Ukraine and Syria.Coming just three weeks after an election in which the Kremlin was widely seen as backing centrist Macron's far-right rival Marine Le Pen -- with Putin hosting her during a surprise visit to Moscow -- the encounter in Versailles, near Paris, has an added personal edge.The visit comes seven months after the Russian leader cancelled a trip to Paris for the opening of a Russian cathedral complex near the Eiffel Tower in a spat over Syria with then president Francois Hollande, who had said Russia's bombing of Aleppo could amount to war crimes.Macron has called for the "de-escalation" of the sanctions, which have seriously dented EU-Russia trade.Russia's ambassador to France, Alexander Orlov, said Moscow had a "positive perception" of Macron, describing him as "very intelligent, realistic and pragmatic".On the eve of Putin's visit, central and eastern European activists plan a demonstration in Paris to denounce "the warlike behaviour of ... Putin's Russia".
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