Putin Visits Paris, Leaves Medvedev at Home, and Urges French Distance from U.S.

Putin Visits Paris, Leaves Medvedev at Home, and Urges French Distance from U.S.

Although he is no longer Russia's president, Vladimir Putin led the high-level Russian delegation that visited France beginning May 29. During his first visit outside the former Soviet bloc since becoming prime minister last month, Putin held talks with his counterpart, French Prime Minister Francois Fillon, but also engaged in substantive discussions with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his predecessor, Jacques Chirac.

Putin's change of office has not apparently led him to change his views. He dismissed Western complaints about Russia's human rights policies as political propaganda, claimed Russia could do little to arrest surging world oil prices, and warned his French hosts not to support U.S. foreign policies or risk repudiation by their public.

One reason Putin, rather than Medvedev, may have led the Russian mission to France is that Paris will assume the presidency of the European Union on July 1. In this capacity, the French government will oversee the initial phase of negotiations with Russia on a new Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA), which will replace the now expired December 1997 agreement. The talks are expected to start at the EU-Russia summit later this month.

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