Emmanuel Macron, Vladimir Putin hold talks at Bregancon fort in southern France

Emmanuel Macron, Vladimir Putin hold talks at Bregancon fort in southern France

Speaking alongside French President Emmanuel Macron ahead of bilateral talks, Putin said that all of those injured and killed in the blast would receive state awards.

Addressing Putin at a joint press conference at the Bregancon fortress on France's Mediterranean coast, Macron said it was "vital" that a ceasefire deal agreed in the Russian resort of Sochi in September previous year be implemented.

He nevertheless stressed he would support Normandy format talks - a diplomatic group of senior representatives of four countries (Germany, Russia, Ukraine and France) to resolve the war in Eastern Ukraine - and that there was no alternative to it.

The Russian and French leaders met at Brégançon - a medieval fort on an island in the Mediterranean that serves as the French president's summer holiday retreat - with the conflict in Ukraine set to be one of the main issues during their discussions.

"Because I believe in a European Russia".

Those guilty of breaking Russia's protest laws should be held responsible, Putin said in answer to a question, and nobody had the right to incite clashes at demonstrations.

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Macron expressed "deep concern" over the military offensive led by the Syrian regime, backed by Moscow, in the region of Idlib, a rebel-controlled area in the northwest of the country.

Macron said he hoped to discuss the crises in "of course" Ukraine, as well as Syria and Libya because "Russia has an essential role in these situations".

Kiev's forces have been battling pro-Russian separatists in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine since 2014, in a conflict that has claimed more than 13,000 lives.

Moscow has been rocked by weekly protests for more than a month after the authorities barred opposition candidates from running in an election for the city's legislature in September.

Macron also called for the respect of free speech and free elections in Russian Federation. "Because we are a country where people can express themselves freely, protest freely, go to elections freely", Macron added.

"These kind of invitations to Putin from western leaders are rare, because relations between Western powers and Russian Federation are tense, not least over issues such as Syria and Ukraine", she said.

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