Paris – French President Emmanuel Macron will meet Russia’s Vladimir Putin at the palace of Versailles outside Paris on May 29 to inaugurate an exhibition marking 300 years of Franco-Russian diplomatic ties.
The meeting next week near Paris between Macron and Putin will be an opportunity for both leaders to get to know each other, Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov said on Friday.
Relatives of Ukrainians jailed by Russia in cases they call “political” have appealed to Macron to demand their release when he meets Putin on Monday.
In a letter published Friday, relatives and activists urged Macron to “express to Putin our demand to free all the political hostages of the Kremlin.”
Ukraine has been locked in a bitter feud with Russia since Kremlin illegally annexed Crimea in March 2014.
Kiev also blames Moscow for starting and backing a three-year war in the east of Ukraine that has killed more than 10,000 people.
Those Ukraine view as political prisoners in Russia include Ukrainian film director and scriptwriter Oleg Sentsov, who has been sentenced to 20 years in a Russian prison colony on terrorism charges over arson attacks in Crimea.
“This (the Macron-Putin meeting) provides us with an opportunity to talk frankly and to get a better feel for each other,” Ushakov told reporters. He said the meeting would also allow Moscow and Paris “to get a better feel for the nuances of each other’s position”.
“The main thing for the presidents is to get acquainted with each other and discuss the topical issues of the international situation,” Ushakov said.
The Kremlin expects that the four-way “Normandy format” negotiations on settling the conflict in Ukraine would continue after Macron’s election, Ushakov said. Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine are part of this process.
Syria will also loom large on the two men’s agenda, Ushakov said, adding that the Kremlin was expecting “a frank conversation” with Macron.
Russia’s ambassador to France, Alexander Orlov, said Moscow had a “positive perception” of Macron, describing him as “very intelligent, realistic and pragmatic”.