Chechen president invites Macron, Merkel to 'search' for gay concentration camps

But French president Emmanuel Macron, who took office only a couple of weeks ago, seemed to have struck a good balance in his first tête-à-tête with the Russian leader.

Macron portrayed the Putin meeting as just a first step in resetting relations with Russian Federation.

Russian Federation has not interfered in elections in any country, there is no subject for discussion on this issue, Putin said at a news conference after talks in reply to reporters' question.

Russia's president also said that countries such as the U.S. and France have sought to blame Assad for the April attack in order to justify "to the worldwide community why it was necessary to continue to impose measures to pressure Assad, including militarily".

This latest development comes after German Chancellor Angela Merkel pressed Putin on the atrocities taking place in the Russian republic.

Macron's warning of French retaliation in the event that chemical weapons are used echo the line taken by US President Donald Trump, who in April ordered cruise missile strikes in retaliation for a chemical weapons attack that Washington blamed on Damascus.

Macron said he wanted Paris and Moscow to bolster intelligence sharing on Syria and to work together on finding a political solution to the conflict, but gave no details on what a political deal might look like.

Mr Putin, seemingly unfazed during the conference in Versailles, later vehemently denied any suggestion that Russian Federation sought to influence the election speaking to reporters in Paris.

"We disagree on a number of things but at least we discussed them", Macron said.

"I confirm what I said earlier on this issue, if necessary, the sanctions may be strengthened but only in case of escalation of the conflict in Ukraine".

Macron therefore opted for a tough dialogue something which Putin understands and that one hopes will improve French-Russian relations.

Macron also noted the crackdown against gay Chechens as he spoke at a press conference with Putin.

A more candid Macron let fly when questioned about two pro-Kremlin media outlets that were barred from his campaign headquarters after being accused of a smear campaign.

The meeting was held at Versailles to celebrate the opening of an exhibition dedicated to Peter the Great, a tsar in France, commemorating 300 years since his diplomatic visit to Paris.

Putin also hosted Macron's far-right rival, Marine Le Pen, at the Kremlin in March.

They also appeared to make some progress in the troubling matter of the alleged torture of gay men in Chechnya, Macron stating that Putin promised that he would complete a thorough investigation of these reports and that they had agreed on a "very regular monitoring" of the situation.

  • Carolyn Briggs