French President Macron to host Russia’s Putin at Versailles palace
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French President Emmanuel Macron will host Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin for talks at the Versailles palace on May 29, the French presidency said on Monday.
The meeting coincides with an exhibition to mark Russian Tsar Peter the Great’s visit to France 300 years ago, providing a perfect photo opportunity for the world’s press -- and for people-watchers -- to capture the two leaders shaking hands with Versailles Palace being used as a symbolic backdrop to demonstrate the historic ties between France and Russia.
Macron has previously said Russia's bombing of the Syrian city of Aleppo could amount to a war crime.
Macron's presidential campaign was also subjected to repeated cyber-attacks, with the Japanese cyber-security firm Trend Micro telling FRANCE 24, "We are 99 percent sure that it is attacks from Russia".
His aides accused the Kremlin of mounting a "smear campaign" against him, with one of the major hacking attacks seeing troves of real and fake documents involving Macron’s campaign team being released online just before the vote. The incident seemed to have had little effect on the country’s voters, however, as the French media heeded a call from the election authorities to respect the French law regarding a nationwide press blackout in the final hours leading up to the vote.
France ready to 'retaliate'
Afterward, Aurélien Lechevallier, Macron’s foreign policy adviser, warned that: “We will have a doctrine of retaliation when it comes to Russian cyber-attacks or any other kind of attacks."
“This means we are ready to retaliate against cyber-attacks - not only in kind but also with any other conventional measure or security tool," he stated.
Kremlin views Macron as ‘pragmatic’
Speaking last Friday, Russia's ambassador to France, Alexander Orlov, said Moscow had a "positive perception" of Macron, describing him as "very intelligent, realistic and pragmatic".
"I think he's not very ideological compared with his predecessors," Orlov told a meeting of business leaders. "With him we have more chances of moving forward than before."
Partnership: Versaille and State Hermitage
The May 30-September 24 exhibition at the Versailles Palace marks Russian Tsar Peter the Great’s trip to France in 1717 and there will be a special exhibition in the Palace’s Grand Trianon.
The exhibition is in partnership with the world-famous State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg and the Palace of Versailles, and will contain paintings, sculpture, books and engravings, some of which are from the Tsar’s personal collection.
Macron facing host of domestic issues
Macron, France's youngest ever president, won a resounding victory over far-right leader Marine Le Pen in the election two weeks ago that was watched worldwide.
The new president faces a host of daunting challenges including tackling stubbornly high unemployment, fighting Islamist-inspired violence and healing divisions exposed by an often vicious election campaign.