Putin Cancels Paris Visit After Hollande Warns Russia on Syria

  • French leader said Russian action in Syria is “unacceptable”
  • Presidents may still meet in Berlin for Ukraine talks

Russia's President Vladimir Putin.

Photographer: Alexei DruzhininTASS via Getty Images

President Vladimir Putin canceled a visit to Paris, the latest turn in the downward spiral of Russia’s relations with the U.S. and its allies, after his French counterpart Francois Hollande scolded the Kremlin over its bombing campaign in Syria.

The Russian leader pulled the plug on the trip scheduled for next week to wait until "a more comfortable time" for Hollande, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call Tuesday. Hollande earlier declined to appear alongside Putin for the inauguration of a religious center in Paris. The French leader on Monday said that Russian action in Syria in support of President Bashar al-Assad is “unacceptable” and that the people of Aleppo are suffering “war crimes” that will be the subject of an international investigation.

“Putin was due in Paris for various ceremonies," Hollande said in Strasbourg on Tuesday. "I told him I wouldn’t accompany him to the ceremonies, but would be willing to meet him about Syria. He decided to postpone his visit.”

Russia’s relationship with the U.S. and its allies has sunk back into the deep freeze it was in at the peak of the crisis over Ukraine in 2014, dashing Kremlin hopes of an easing of international sanctions. Russia last week vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution proposed by France that demanded an immediate halt to Russian and Syrian bombing in Aleppo where about 250,000 civilians are trapped. Russia and the West have blamed each other for the breakdown of a cease-fire agreement in Syria.

‘Not Isolated’

"The president is not isolated" as a result of the canceled visit, said Peskov. "It is absolutely absurd. The president’s rather tight international schedule is proof of the opposite.”

The French leader said today that he has a "major difference" with Putin over Syria. "It will be to Russia’s shame if there isn’t a stop to the killings in Aleppo," said Hollande. “Dialog is needed, but it must be firm. When Russia has decided it wants to put an end to the bombings in Syria, I am ready for dialog.” 

The two leaders still have a chance to meet Oct. 19 in Berlin for a “Normandy format” summit, Kremlin foreign-policy aide Yuri Ushakov suggested Monday. Peskov said that no date or place is set for the talks between the leaders of Germany, Russia, France and Ukraine, aimed at solving the military conflict in eastern Ukraine, where Russia supports separatists fighting the government.

Speaking Tuesday to the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, Hollande said he’s ready to meet “at any moment” with Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. He didn’t specifically refer to a possible meeting on Oct. 19. He also said that Ukraine’s progress on implementing the Minsk peace accord is "too slow."

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